Monday, December 17, 2007

FCC Adopts Rules To Promote Video Programming Diversity

The FCC adopted rules aimed at promoting video programming diversity by ensuring new video programmers can enter and compete in the video market. Specifically, the FCC is setting the number of subscribers a cable operator may serve at 30 percent nationwide. The FCC is also seeking comment on vertical ownership limits and cable and broadcast attribution rules.

Under the 1992 Cable Act, the FCC was directed to conduct proceedings to establish reasonable limits on the number of subscribers a cable operator may serve -- a "horizontal limit" -- and the number of channels a cable operator may devote to its affiliated programming networks -- a "vertical" or "channel occupancy" limit.

The 30 percent limit, set first in 1993 and modified in 1999, was challenged by Time Warner in 2001. The DC Circuit Court then remanded it back to the FCC seeking further justification. That remand has been pending six years at the Commission.

The FCC said the 30 percent cable horizontal ownership limit will ensure that no single cable operator can create a barrier to a video programming network's entry into the market or cause a video programming network to exit the market simply by declining to carry the network. In devising a limit to achieve this goal, the Commission first determined the minimum number of subscribers a network needs in order to survive in the marketplace, and then estimated the percentage of subscribers a network is likely to serve once it secures a carriage contract.