FCC vs cable, it's getting nasty

The stand-off between FCC chair Kevin -Martin and the US cable industry is getting serious, and complicated. Two of his fellow Republican commissioners seem to be doubting the validity of his data for deermining that cable has crossed the arcane 70/70 threshold (see Daily 13th Nov).

Martin, a relentless critic of 'big cable', has said the data in question indicated that the cable industry had reached the 70 per cent concentration threshold that allows the FCC to heavily regulate the sector under a rule established in 1984. But commissioners Deborah Tate and Robert McDowell expressed reservations about the data Martin was using. In a letter the two commissioners asked Warren Communications News, which compiles the data for the FCC, to send them “all information” regarding the data, including any “caveats” or “footnotes” to the statistics.

Reacting to Martin's plan, the cable industry ditched all efforts to improve its strained relations with Martin and instead accused him of backing measures “designed to hurt the cable industry”. “In my judgment, the FCC is broken,'' Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Industry Association, said.

“We’d much rather have a better relationship, but we’re not going to fundamentally wreck a business model and hurt our customers to appease one chairman of the FCC,” said McSlarrow. Cable companies are upset at what they see as the latest in a series of attacks by Martin, in retaliation for their refusal to sell cable programming on a channel-by-channel basis. Martin has long been a proponent of the a la carte system because he believes it would offer more choice and cost consumers less.

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