FCC eyes cable-ownership cap


Cable companies would be able to serve as many as 45 percent of subscription-TV households under a recommendation to Federal Communication Commission members
drafted by the agency's Media Bureau.

The new ownership restriction would not be a rigid number, but it would vary
between 30 percent and 45 percent depending on the company's ownership of cable-programming networks.

Companies with large programming stakes would face lower limits than those
with little involvement in the network side of the business.

Under the FCC's reasoning, companies with extensive programming investments
would be more likely to discriminate against unaffiliated programmers when
setting channel lineups, and they should be barred from having enough control over
subscribers nationwide that they could dictate which networks survive.

The agency's five commissioners still must approve the proposal.

If approved, it would be the first in a series of sweeping revisions to
media-ownership rules.

The cable proceeding is moving on a track by itself and had been
predicted to be ready for a vote early in 2003. If other commissioners agree,
however, the cable-ownership limit could be approved before 2002 ends.

Proposed changes to broadcast-ownership rules are expected to be ready for a
commission vote this spring.