Cable Passes on Program-Access Fight

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The cable industry is skipping a court battle with the Federal Communications
Commission over rules that require the sale of cable programming to
direct-broadcast satellite carriers and other cable competitors.

In June, the FCC extended the decade-old rules for five years, claiming that
cable rivals needed access to marquee cable networks such as Cable News Network,
Discovery Channel and Home Box Office in order to remain competitive. Cable-MSO
control of regional sports networks also factored into the FCC's decision.

'While we disagree with the decision, it is of limited duration,' said Daniel
Brenner, senior vice president of law and regulatory policy at the National
Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Under the rules, cable-operator-owned networks delivered by satellite are not
allowed to sign exclusive contracts with any cable operator without FCC
permission. Cable networks delivered by fiber and microwave have not been
included by the FCC.

The deadline to file a court appeal was Sept. 28. The rules were to sunset
Oct. 5 unless the FCC voted to extend them.

'We don't appeal everything we lose. We just can't overturn the commission
just like that,' Brenner said.

Cablevision Systems Corp. argued against a blanket extension, claiming that
it was irrational that a cable company with 3 million subscribers had to sell
its programming to DBS operators with about 17 million subscribers combined.
Cablevision, however, did not file a court appeal.

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