The U.S. Dept. of Justice is expected to ask a federal court here to delay until 1993 cable industry challenges to the must-carry/retransmission consent provisions of the new cable reregulation law.

Sources said yesterday the Justice Dept. request is imminent, and that the delay is likely to be granted.

The delay is being sought to allow President-elect Clinton’s new team at the Justice Dept. to weigh the case.

Decision on whether to grant the delay rests with the U.S. District Court here, which has tentatively set Dec. 7 as the day for oral arguments in the case. If the court grants the delay, oral arguments would probably not be held until next spring.

Turner Broadcasting and a large number of cable programmers are challenging the constitutionality of must-carry/retrans, which assures broadcasters’ continued carriage on the cable system or the possibility of cash payments from cablers for the right to use the broadcast signal.

Time Warner is also suing to have other provisions of the cable law declared unconstitutional.

Last week, the Bush administration’s Justice Dept. announced that it would not defend the must-carry provision in the new law, which bars cable operators from dumping broadcasters from the cable channel.

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