Capital Watch


No Free RFR Ride

Violators of government radio-frequency-radiation (RFR) emission limits aren't getting an easy ride anymore.

For years, the commission let broadcasters that exceed RFR emission limits off with nothing more than a warning. During the week of Nov. 18, however, the FCC issued its first and second fines for RFR violations. KTMN-FM Cloudcroft, N.M., was hit with a $10,000 fine for emissions 300% above permitted limits (B&C, Nov. 25). Four days later, KWNZ-FM Carson City, Nev., was dinged the same amount for emissions 42% above the permissible level. Is this the start of a crackdown? Sort of.

The agency is finally geared up to enforce emission standards set in 1996. All FCC licensees were required to come into compliance with the new limits by Sept. 1, 2000, or notify officials about noncompliance and undergo environmental review by the agency to design a plan for meeting the new limits. Neither station filed the assessment, an indication that they would have no problem complying. FCC field agents detected the violations after receiving complaints. The violations were particularly troublesome to the FCC because both transmitters, though located in remote areas, were accessed regularly—by forest rangers in KTMN's case and by drivers of all-terrain vehicles in KWNZ's.

SEC Gives Motorola a Talking-To

The SEC decided last week not to take any formal enforcement action against Motorola for conduct it concluded was "inconsistent" with relatively new corporate FD (fair-disclosure) regulations. Motorola, in combination with Scientific-Atlanta, claims 85%-90% of the digital cable set-top market.

The disclosure regulations are meant to curtail the selective release of information to analysts and others that is not available to the public. According to SEC Associate Regional Director Barry Rashkover, the conduct involved was selective disclosure of nonpublic information in phone conversations between the director of investor relations and selected analysts.

The disclosure was inappropriate, but it was mitigated by the fact that Motorola had sought advice from counsel before the disclosure. The advice turned out to be erroneous, but the SEC recognized Motorola's good-faith effort and wants to encourage companies to seek counsel in such circumstances, simply better advice than Motorola apparently got. The SEC's report to company on its investigation made that clear, saying that it likely would not escape a future enforcement action with the excuse of "reliance on counsel." The SEC did take action against three other companies, including Raytheon, in the first ever such penalties under the FD regs.

FTC OKs Four More Indy ISPs

The Federal Trade Commission has approved four more unaffiliated ISPs for America Online/Time Warner. The commission conditioned its approval of the 2000 merger of the two communications giants on the merged company's opening up its cable systems to competing Internet service providers. The latest four: LocalNet Corp. for Portland, Me.; DURO Communications for Birmingham, Ala.; Jackson/Monroe, Miss.; Memphis, Tenn.; and North and South Carolina; 3) ShreveNet for Shreveport, La.; and 4) Applied Technology Group for Bakersfield, Calif.

Court to Expedite Comcast-Merger Review

A federal appeals court in Washington last week granted consumer groups' request for an expedited review of their motion to reverse the FCC's approval of the Comcast/AT&T Broadband merger.

Briefs are due by mid March, with oral argument likely sometime before the end of June.

Consumers Union, Media Access Project and others allege that the merger will give what is now the largest cable company in America power to jack up rates and discriminate against unaffiliated broadband Internet providers.