Washington -- Draft legislation calling for extensive new
regulation of cable could produce a split among senior House Republicans.
According to House sources and others, House Judiciary
Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) is drafting a bill that would extend regulation of
cable rates until June 30, 2001.
Under current law, the expanded-basic rates of large
operators are to be deregulated March 31, 1999.
The Hyde bill would amend the program-access laws by
banning exclusive contracts between cable programmers and multichannel-video-programming
distributors; banning the use of retransmission consent to secure cable carriage; and
making price discrimination subject to civil prosecution.
Hyde's bill would encroach on the jurisdiction of the
House Commerce Committee, which oversees cable laws.
"Based on what I have heard of Mr. Hyde's bill,
there could be a real jurisdiction flap before this is all said and done," said Ken
Johnson, spokesman for Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the Commerce
Committee's Telecommunications Subcommittee.
Johnson said many of the provisions in Hyde's draft
bill "are within the purview of the Commerce Committee and Telecommunications
Hyde and Tauzin are already at odds about Tauzin's
bill, which would roll back an increase in copyright fees paid by satellite carriers to
distribute distant-network and superstation signals to dish owners.
Johnson said Tauzin is still thinking about his own cable
bill. He added that Tauzin is concerned about program bundling, program ownership and the
impact of exclusivity.
"We will have a cable bill this year. It may not deal
necessarily with program access," Johnson said, declining to elaborate.