Small cablers hit D.C.

Small cable TV operators from throughout the U.S. will descend on D.C. this month to plead for relief from FCC rules designed to roll back cable rates as much as 15% nationwide.

More than 100 operators from the newly formed Small Cable Business Assn. will journey to the nation’s capital the week of July 19 to meet with members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, according to Stanley Searle, president of Pioneer Cable Inc. in Monument, Colo.

The purpose, according to Searle, will be to pressure the FCC into “not applying the same rules to media midgets that you apply to media giants. … Our business is a lot different than that of TCI and Ted Turner.”

Searle claims “more than half of all small operators will be in default” if new FCC rate regulations are applied to them.

SCBA got its launch two months ago when some 200 small-cable exex gathered in Kansas City to bemoan what Searle claimed was a lack of adequate representation from the two D.C.-based cable trade organizations — the National Cable Television Assn. and the Community Antenna Television Assn.

Searle says small operators were guilty of assuming that “highly polished, articulate lobbyists were telling our story in Washington.”

What they have since discovered, Searle said, is that NCTA and CATA were “properly representing the interests of their constituency, which is dominated by large (multisystem operators).”

CATA spokesman Rob Stoddard bristles at suggestions CATA — which is traditionally viewed as the org representing small and independent cable operators — has relinquished those duties. While conceding that CATA’s role has evolved as the cable industry has become more consolidated, Stoddard insists CATA has “always bent over backward on behalf of small operators.”

Leading SBCA’s trek to Washington will be the trade group’s recently elected chairman, David Kinley, the president of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Sun Country Cable, which owns 20 small systems in the West. Kinley also happens to have been the chief of the FCC’s cable TV bureau in the mid- 1970s.

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