Martin Backtracks on FCC Regulation of Cable TV

FCC Chairman Had Hoped to Increase Agency's Authority Over Medium

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WASHINGTON ( -- In a major victory for the cable industry, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin is pulling back on his proposal to impose new curbs on cable.
Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin

Mr. Martin this morning told reporters that a forthcoming FCC video-competition report will no longer conclude that the cable industry has passed a key milestone that allows the agency to impose additional limits on cable.

Instead, he told reporters awaiting the delayed start of an FCC meeting, the report may raise questions about whether the benchmark has been exceeded and require cable providers to submit better subscriber numbers to the FCC to determine whether it has.

Martin's biggest setback?
Today's result may represent Mr. Martin's biggest setback at the FCC, but its exact impact won't be clear until the FCC formally acts later today on the report.

Mr. Martin had hoped the FCC would conclude that cable was available to 70% of households and more than 70% of those households were now taking it. Passing the so-called 70/70 mark gives the FCC added authority over cable, which Mr. Martin and some consumer groups had hoped to use to force cable to add more independent channels and other limits.

The cable industry mounted an intensive campaign against the effort. Martin's effort also drew strong opposition from Capitol Hill Republicans as well as from minority groups worried that the independent channels would replace minority channels.

Mr. Martin said today that his fellow commissioners objected to the 70/70 conclusion.

The setback comes as the FCC prepares to act next month on media ownership.
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