A report by the Federal Communications Commission is claimed to show that cable TV companies have reached a subscriber saturation point that may lead to the agency exerting greater regulatory authority over the industry. The finding is in an annual report that assesses competition in the pay-television market.
The report will conclude that the agency has reached the “70/70” threshold, a measure contained in a relatively obscure provision of the 1984 cable act. The law says that when cable systems with 36 or more channels are available to 70 percent of households in the U.S. and 70 percent of those households subscribe to them, the commission may “promulgate any additional rules necessary to promote diversity of information sources.”
The last video competition report released by the FCC questioned the way cable subscribership penetration is measured and sought more information on how it is calculated.The cable television industry strongly disagrees that the standard has been reached. “Every independent analysis of the marketplace shows that cable serves less than 70 percent of the nation’s households and even the FCC staff concluded last year that cable was well short of this threshold,” said Kyle McSlarrow, head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. McSlarrow called the provision “a relic of decades-old regulation” and said “twisting statistics in order to breathe life into this rule” is an attempt to justify regulation in an already competitive market.
Kevin Martin, the Republican chairman of the media and telecommunications regulator, has long sought the power to force US cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner, to unbundle their channel offerings and offer independent programmers greater access to the cable television market.