CU Wants FCC to Appeal Cable Case

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A leading consumer group is pressing Federal Communications Commission
chairman Michael Powell to appeal last month's court decision that struck down a
host of FCC cable-ownership rules.

In an April 4 meeting with Powell, a Consumers Union official urged him to
seek rehearing by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit.

In recent weeks, Powell said he was unsure whether he wanted to appeal the
case. Even if he didn't like the outcome, he said, he had to decide whether
there was a good chance of getting the court to change its mind.

In the decision, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit voided an FCC rule
that capped one cable MSO at no more than 30 percent of pay TV subscribers. It
also voided a rule that said a cable operator could not occupy more than 40
percent of its first 75 channels with affiliated programming.

A letter recounting the Powell meeting said Gene Kimmelman, the CU's
Washington-office co-director, urged the FCC to tell the court the decision had
'misread the statute and legislative history on diversity.'

Powell has said that the commission is finding it increasingly difficult to
justify ownership caps based on the FCC's desire to preserve marketplace
ownership diversity. He added that when the agency invokes diversity in
connection with media companies, it almost always triggers tough judicial
review.

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