Cable Skips Program-Access Fight

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The cable industry is skipping a court battle with the Federal Communications Commission over rules that require programmers to sell their networks to direct-broadcast satellite providers and other cable competitors.

In June, the FCC extended the decade-old rules for five years, claiming that rivals to cable needed access to marquee 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, satellite-delivered networks owned by cable operators are not allowed to sign exclusive contracts with any cable provider without FCC permission. The FCC rules have not included microwave- or fiber-delivered channels.

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

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

Cablevision Systems Corp. argued against a blanket extension, claiming 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. The Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO did not file a court appeal.

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