FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has scheduled for Dec. 18 a vote on relaxing media cross-ownership rules. Scheduling the vote is an aggressive maneuver, given that members of Congress with oversight on the matter have been cautioning the FCC to reconsider approving the measure. The Republican majority on the Commission is expected to approve the plan, however.
Current rules prohibit ownership of a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same market, unless the FCC grants a waiver. Martin’s proposal would open the top 20 U.S. markets to potential cross-ownership, with no waivers required.
At the same time, Martin is proposing to cap the size of cable operators to no more than a 30 percent share of all U.S. multichannel video subscribers.
Doing so seems entirely speculative. Only Comcast, by far the largest MSO, is anywhere near that mark. Given historical growth rates, Comcast might not reach that mark for three or more years – if it were to continue to grow its subscriber ranks. Comcast has begun to lose basic subscribers (as have other MSOs), and competition for video subscribers is only going to get more intense.
As a practical matter, the only purpose Martin’s proposal might serve would be to prevent Comcast from buying another large cable operator, or to prevent an unprecedented consolidation among other large MSOs.
Separately, the NCTA is vowing to fight part of the FCC’s October edict that cable companies cannot contract with owners of multi-dwelling units (MDUs) for exclusive rights to provide services to all tenants of the MDU. The NCTA threatened to go to court if the FCC does not stay its order.
The organization is not challenging the ban on new contracts of that nature, but it argues that it is unlawful for the FCC to invalidate existing contracts between cable operators and apartment buildings.