MAP Maps Out Cable Re-Reg

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Saying the cable business has become sufficiently dominant that the FCC needs to step in, media consolidation critic Media Access Project (MAP) has proposed a laundry list of "fixes."

MAP et. al. (including Common Cause, Consumer Federation of America, and Consumers Union) were responding to the FCC's request for input on whether the FCC has met the 70/70 test for cable dominance, which would then free the FCC, by statute, to promulgate regs to ensure diversity of programming.

They say the test--70% cable penetration with 70% of those taking cable--has been met--cable disagrees--and that means the FCC can do a host of things that promote program diversity--cable disagrees with that, too--which they argue has suffered under a consolidated cable industry.

The 70/70 test was established in the section of the 1992 Cable Act dealing with leased access, which requires cable operators to reserve 10%-15% of their channel capacity to lease to independent programmers.

But while the cable industry reads the law narrowly and says the test applies only to regs regarding the pricing of leased-access channels, MAP argues that, instead, it was a way to give the FCC broad reregulatory powers if it turned out that the leased-access set-aside was not insuring program diversity.

Saying that competition is diminishing and diversity suffering, MAP wants the FCC to: 1) strengthen leased access provisions and boost and public, educational and government (PEG) channels; 2) mandate open broadband access; 3) impose a cap on cable ownership; 4) and eliminate the so-called terrestrial loophole that does not require cable operators to give competitors access to programming that is not delivered by satellite.

MAP also wants the FCC to put conditions on the proposed breakup of bankrupt cable operator Adelphia among Comcast and Time Warner.

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