FCC Releases Leased-Access-Rules Order
Leased Access Programmers Association President Charlie Stogner Happy at First Glance; Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell Not so Much
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/4/2008 12:44:00 PM
The Federal Communications Commission released its order revamping leased-access rules and fees, including requiring cable operators to file an annual report on their compliance with the rules.
Just hours after Leased Access Programmers Association president Charlie Stogner expressed his continuing frustration with the pace of the FCC's pursuit of leased-access complaints and its failure to release a final order, the commission released its new rules.
Stogner was still reviewing the new rules at press time, but said he thought the new annual report could be "one of the most constructive and proactive rules the FCC has adopted."
The commission in November voted to lower the rates cable operators charged leased-access programmers and speed up the complaint process, with the majority arguing that it would lead to greater program diversity.
Cable operators are required by law to set aside channels for lease by outside programmers.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin has argued that there are relatively few leased-access programmers because rates have been artificially high, and that lowering the rates will "increase the use of leased-access channels and, thereby, enhance the diversity of programming.”
By contrast, Republican commissioner Robert McDowell, who opposed the changes, argued that the reason why leased access is not prevalent is that it is an unworkable business model -- paying for carriage rather than receiving a fee -- and that the rule change will result in a lack of diversity.
He added that the FCC's decision not to apply the rate cut to infomercial-based leased access operations makes the rules legally suspect. "I cannot fathom how distinguishing programmers based on the content they deliver can be constitutional," he said in a statement.
As a leased access programmer, I am glad to see the new rules. It's been a long time coming and now, I believe, we will see more LAPers taking advantage of the new rules. Commissioner McDowell is misinformed. Programmers do not mind paying to have their programming distributed but, if it's that much of a concern for the Commissioner, LAPers will be happy to receive distribution at no charge.
For the most part, LAPers are locally oriented programmers, producing local content which covers topics the network and affiliates do not. This is what our company does. We treat our "telecast" as a local television station, Our programming is positive, local and informative.
All in all LAPers did not get everything we hoped for, such as, target areas in mega cable systems, but, the new rules, at least as I have read them, are a positive step forward. The biggest part of the new rules is the fact LAPers are finally getting the recognition deserved for many many years.
Chris Folsom - 2/5/2008 6:53:00 AM EST
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