Panel to Probe Programming Market


The cable industry and competing players are expected to provide clashing
views on the state of video competition at a hearing Wednesday before the Senate
subcommittee headed by Mike DeWine (R-Ohio).

DeWine, chairman of the Antitrust, Business Rights and Competition panel, has
invited National Cable Television Association president Robert Sachs and Charter
Communications Inc. CEO Jerry Kent to tell cable's side of the issue.

The cable leaders will face off against Eddy Hartenstein, chairman of DirecTV
Global; Robert J. Currey, vice chairman of RCN Corp.; and Gene Kimmelman,
Washington-office co-director of the Consumers Union.

Although cable's share of the market is eroding, satellite competitors such
as DirecTV complained about access to sports programming and fear the loss of
broader programming channels if Federal Communications Commission rules are
allowed to expire in 2002.

RCN -- a cable overbuilder that bundles voice, video and Internet access --
spent two-and-a-half years attempting to obtain a franchise to compete against
Comcast Corp. in Philadelphia. But RCN abandoned that effort after the City
Council insisted on a buildout that avoided 'cherry-picking.'

Kimmelman has hounded the industry for years, complaining about excessive
concentration and unreasonable price hikes even though the FCC's latest price
survey showed a decline in cable rates on an inflation-adjusted, per-channel