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More Protection of Indie Cable Nets Urged

Jun 23, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The chairman of a U.S. Senate antitrust panel is urging the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to make it easier for independent cable channels to get on cable systems and limit bigger rivals from using channel bundling to disadvantage their rivals.
In a letter today to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said the current FCC rules against discrimination are too loose, leading to confusion over what they mean. He said the result is that independent channels are finding it hard to get on the air across cable systems. If they do get on a cable operator’s menu, they are placed on packages that cost more than the basic tier, Mr. Kohl said. Finally, complaints by independent channels take too long to be resolved, he added.
Mr. Kohl, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, suggested the FCC take a number of steps including measures that would prevent cable systems from taking “adverse actions” such as dropping independent networks.
“I have long believed that it is vitally important that independent programming channels are offered to the American public, rather than just programming affiliated with the major cable, satellite or broadcast television companies,” Sen. Kohl said in the letter. “Our democracy depends on the ability of independent voices to be heard, and increasing the diversity and variety of points of view available on television should be an important objective of both competition and communications policy.”
Mr. Kohl’s letter followed similar complaints from the National Association of Independent Networks, and his letter mentions the group.
Mr. Kohl said one of his concerns is bundling of cable networks by big media companies.
He urged the FCC “to enact rules to prevent programmers … from unreasonably bundling channels together, when such bundling is done in order to deny independent programmers the channel capacity needed to be carried.”
Neither the Association of Independent Networks nor the National Cable & Telecommunications Association immediately responded to requests for comment.
An FCC spokesman said the agency had received Mr. Kohl’s letter and is reviewing it.
(Editor: Baumann)
10:30 a.m.: Updated with FCC response

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