Small Cable Ops Ask FCC To Retain Access Conditions

NTCA argues that programming access conditions are in the public interest.

Midsized and smaller Cable operators have asked the FCC not to lift programming access conditions currently placed on News Corp., saying they continue to be in the public interest.

In a letter to the FCC, the American Cable Association, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA, not to be confused with NCTA), and the association representing small telecom carriers, argued that "the conditions placed on News Corp. continue to have substantial public interest benefits,” as ACA president Matthew Polka puts it. “Removing the conditions now would allow News Corp. to engage in the types of abusive market practices that force smaller operators and their subscribers to pay higher prices for programming.”

News Corp. asked the FCC back in September to remove the conditions because it had sold DirecTV to Liberty and the conditions had been imposed as part of News Corp.'s purchase of DirecTV in 2003.

The FCC had been concerned that News Corp. could favor DirecTV with carriage of its regional sports nets and Fox TV station signals, so it required the company to make programming assets available to competing cable and satellite networks.

Liberty, which also owns stakes in multichannel video programming, agreed to abide by the access conditions, but News Corp. argued that the reason for applying the conditions--which were to have extended to 2010--were clearly mooted by the sale.

"If the conditions on News Corp. were lifted," said ACA and company, "small operators and their customers would be forced to pay more money for the same content, because News Corp. would be able to exercise unconstrained market power over smaller distributors..."