Cablevision Appeals Terrestrial-Exemption Ruling


Washington -- Cablevision
Systems has quietly challenged the Federal Communications Commission's decision
to close the terrestrial exemption.

That exemption had excluded terrestrially delivered cable
networks, like many regional sports channels, from the FCC's rule requiring pay
TV operators to make networks in which they have a financial interest available
to their competitors.

According to a copy of the petition obtained by Multichannel News, Cablevision is
appealing "on the grounds that the Order exceeds the Commission's jurisdiction
and authority; is contrary to constitutional right; violates the Communications
Act of 1934, the Administrative Procedure Act, or other statutes; and is
arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise contrary to law."

Rather than appealing the decision with the FCC, the company
went straight to the court, according to a source. The petition to the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was filed March 15. A Cablevision
spokesperson had no comment.

The FCC ruled back in January that cable operators who do
not share their owned terrestrially-delivered regional sports networks with
their competitors will be presumed to be in violation of FCC rules against
unfair acts or practices.

They get to rebut the presumption, but the FCC majority made
clear that it was taking action against what it saw as a loophole for
multichannel video providers to withhold must-have programming from

Multichannel video programming distributors will not be
permitted to deliver a standard-definition version of a regional sports network
and withhold the HD version as a way of complying with access requirements. The
HD version will be treated as a separate service for purposes of filing program
access complaints.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, has assured
legislators vetting its proposed joint venture with NBC Universal that it will
not challenge the FCC's decision.

Cablevision has not been shy about taking FCC
decisions to court: the Bethpage, N.Y.-based MSO
has challenged the agency's renewal of the program-access rules (it lost); and
earlier this year, it asked the Supreme Court the must-carry rules that require
cable operators to carry broadcast-TV stations.