FCC Eyes Digital Fees, DBS Quotas

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Washington -- The Federal Communications Commission is
scheduled to approve two orders this week that will impose new regulations on a pair of
cable competitors.

In one, the FCC is expected to adopt rules requiring
broadcasters to pay the government fees based on revenue derived from the use of
digital-TV spectrum for subscription services.

The National Association of Broadcasters asked for a
two-year grace period after the introduction of such services, and the NAB said fees
should not exceed 2 percent of gross revenue obtained from such services.

In the second order, the FCC is expected to adopt rules
requiring direct-broadcast satellite operators to devote between 4 percent and 7 percent
of their channels for programming of an informational or educational nature.

The agency has to decide whether DBS operators may maintain
editorial control, and whether traditional cable networks, such as Discovery Channel and
C-SPAN, will qualify toward fulfilling the quota.

Public-interest groups have been arguing for no editorial
control by the DBS operator.

"We feel that they shouldn't have any control
over who they give their channels to -- then it's not really giving it over to the
public," said Craig Meklir, government-relations coordinator for the Alliance for
Community Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to securing public access to cable and
satellite systems.