Groups ask FCC to limit cablers

Two consumer groups on Wednesday asked the Federal Communications Commission to limit the national subscriber reach of any one cable TV company to between 10 % and 20%.

The request from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Center for Media Education (CME) came on the deadline for interested parties to file comments asking the FCC to reconsider rules that limit the concentration of cable companies.

In September, the FCC issued “horizontal ownership” rules, allowing any one cable company to serve up to 30% of all cable homes nationwide. The decision was considered favorable to Tele-Communications Inc., the nation’s largest cable operator, which has a national reach of 27%, according to CFA legislative counsel Bradley Stillman.

The consumer groups also urged the FCC to limit to 20% the number of channels in which a cable system could hold a financial interest. Under the FCC’s September ruling, individual systems could hold a “vertical ownership” interest in up to 40% of its channels.

CFA and CME also recommended the FCC place a cap on the number of subscribers that can be served by a merged telephone and cable company.

“We call upon (new FCC chairman) Reed Hundt to reverse the commission’s 12 years of wholesale media industry deregulation and adopt new rules designed to protect both consumers and independent programmers,” said CME executive director Jeff Chester.

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