ACA says keep cap on

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The American Cable Association Friday seconded comments from Mediacom
Communications Corp. to the Federal Communications Commission opposing raising
the 35 percent audience-reach cap on broadcast-station ownership.

The ACA represents small and midsized cable companies such as Mediacom.

While both said they would prefer a marketplace solution, Mediacom and the
ACA said consolidation has already hurt cable customers in rural areas, with
media giants controlling stations, studios and 30 of the 36 top cable networks
by ad revenue.

That, the two parties said, has produced rising cable rates to pay for
programming (especially sports), price discrimination against rural and small
markets, preferential treatment to direct-broadcast satellite at the expense of
ACA members, diminished diversity of viewpoints and an unbridged digital divide
between urban and rural.

To loosen the cap, they added, would simply magnify those "harmful"
effects.

If the FCC does relax the rules, Mediacom said, it should make any new
station purchases contingent on: uniform programming rates, a la carte options
for more expensive networks, no retransmission-consent option for stations owned
by companies with cable networks, unbundling requirements and disclosure of
rates and terms by affiliated programmers

The FCC is currently conducting a court- and Congress-driven review of its
media-ownership rules with an eye toward justifying or scrapping them. A
decision is expected by "late, late" spring.

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