Capital Watch


Broadcasters Don't Want To Share

The FCC should not allow unlicensed or other new services to use broadcast spectrum until the DTV transition is complete, NAB and MSTV say.

Commenting on an FCC spectrum-policy report that raised the idea, the groups maintained that adding secondary services now would "delay or derail the transition." Secondly, they said, no new services should be added until the FCC improves interference protections. The FCC today relies too much on "inaccurate" predictive interference models rather than actual measured interference, the groups said.

Arguing against receiver standards was the Consumer Electronics Association, which called the idea "a solution looking for a problem" and one that would slow innovation.

Cable-Ownership Review Nears

FCC members will soon review recommendations from the Mass Media Bureau on revising cable-ownership limits, agency Chairman Michael Powell told reporters last week.

Powell would not say what changes are urged, nor would he predict when the commissioners would vote. However, sources following the proceeding stood by earlier reports that the bureau would suggest lifting the cap on one company's share of multichannel subscribership to as much as 45% from the current 30%.

The new limits, sources said, would vary between 30% and 45%, depending on a company's ownership of cable-programming networks. Companies with large programming stakes would face more-restrictive limits than those with little involvement in the network side of the business.

Bankruptcy Law 1, FCC 0

The FCC may not revoke a spectrum holders' licenses solely for failure to pay debts to the government, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The decision sets the stage for resolving a seven-year dispute between the FCC and NextWave Telecom. In 1996, NextWave had the winning, $4.7 billion bid for wireless licenses in dozens of the country's largest markets but declared bankruptcy after paying the government just $500 million. In a bid to resell the licenses, the FCC re-auctioned them in 2001 for $16 billion to Verizon and other major telecoms, but a lower court ruling invalidated the sale. Although the specifics of the NextWave case limit the ruling's applicability, it puts to rest the FCC's assertion that the interests of regulators can trump bankruptcy law.

DeWine, Kohl Urge Dereg Restraint

Leaders of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee on Tuesday, Jan. 28, urged FCC Chairman Michael Powell not to take media-ownership deregulation too far. The FCC is currently reviewing its rules.

"Throughout our tenures ... we have expressed concern with the possible impact of media consolidation on how Americans receive their news, information and entertainment," wrote Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) in a letter to Powell. The senators are, respectively, the subcommittee's chairman and ranking Democrat. The lawmakers urged Chairman Powell to weigh potential economic efficiencies against the loss of differing views on news and public affairs.

NCTA TO L.A.: lay off access rules

Los Angeles does not have the right to impose program-access requirements on Comcast, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told Mayor James Hahn last week. Comcast wants the city to transfer to it the cable license of AT&T Broadband, which Comcast bought last year.

City Attorney Rockard Delgadillo said the city has the right to impose such conditions. NCTA disagrees, saying the determination of program-access requirements is strictly in the hands of the federal government, with the FCC as monitor, wrote Dan Brenner (above), senior VP of legal affairs for NCTA.