FCC staffers: Retain access rules


Cable program-access rules could remain in place for up to five more years
under a staff recommendation to Federal Communications Commission members.

The fate of those rules, set to expire Oct. 5, may be decided at the
commission's June 13 meeting.

Under the access requirements, networks owned by cable-system operators must
sell their programming to satellite-TV distributors and overbuilders.

EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. say the decade-old rules allow
them to obtain the programming necessary to compete with cable monopolies. The
cable industry doesn't like them and, led by Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman
Chuck Dolan, it is fighting to scrap them now.

FCC staffers conceded that direct-broadcast satellite has enjoyed enormous
growth, but they said cable operators still have sufficient market power to deny
them programming. As a result, they are recommending that commissioners revisit
the rules in the next two to five years.

The commissioners will set the exact timetable in the next two