FCC weighs cap strategy

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The FCC is reviewing a federal court decision that found the FCC's 30% cap on any one cable company's ownership of audience share to be too low, said FCC Chairman Michael Powell after a luncheon speech before the USTA on Wednesday.

"We, of course, have an absolute obligation to evaluate in any matter on which we made a judgement stemming from that statute and that includes AT&T and the merger condition," Powell said. "But as to what that conclusion will be, we're not prepared to say."

The commission and the Department of Justice have not determined whether they will seek a rehearing in the DC Court of Appeals or appeal to the Supreme Court, although that court last month declined to hear a similar case challenging the law that established the caps.

If the FCC does not appeal the decision, it will have to begin work to determine a new, higher cap as the law requires. As Powell mentioned, the FCC also has to review an agreement it made with AT&T, conditioned upon the agency's approval last spring of AT&T's merger with Media One, that AT&T would sell enough systems or programming interests to get below the 30% cap.

The deadline for AT&T to sell enough assets to comply with the agreement is May 19.
- Paige Albiniak

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