Newport, R.I. -- A top aide to Federal Communications Commission chairman
Michael Powell urged cable-industry leaders in favor of sports-programming
regulation Tuesday to drop their campaign in order to prevent a wider
examination of cable-regulatory issues.
'I was a little taken aback that a couple of the CEOs were advocating
regulation of some sports programming. That, to me, seems like the slippery
slope to disaster,' said Susan Eid, Powell's mass-media and cable adviser.
In June, Charter Communications Inc. CEO Jerry Kent voiced support for the a
la carte carriage of sports networks that have contracts with sports teams that
act jointly in the sale of their TV rights under an anti-trust exemption in the
Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961.
Kent, supported by AT&T Broadband president Dan Somers, said
sports-programming costs were skyrocketing and causing basic rates to rise for
subscribers who were not sports fans.
Eid, speaking at the New England Cable Television Association convention
here, said that once policymakers began to examine the sports-programming
market, they would inevitably broaden their scope and perhaps make other changes
to laws and regulations that cable MSOs might not like.
'No regulator or member of Congress is going to dip his or her toe into rate
regulation only to the extent that they will slice off sports programming and
then not regulate other facets of that service,' Eid said.
She suggested that MSOs' arguments about the impact of
sports-programming-cost increases weren't especially convincing.
She said if ESPN's rates go up 20 cents per month in a bill that rose a total
of $2.50, ESPN's portion was not significant enough to merit a regulatory
response. 'Justify the remaining $2.30 for me when you are only slicing off 20
cents for the sports programming,' Eid said. 'I don't think I have seen anything
in the record that shows that it's that problematic that I would go down the
path that some of the people are advocating us to do.'