Powell: Cable Case Not Supreme


Las Vegas -- The federal government is unlikely to ask the Supreme Court to
uphold cable-ownership rules recently struck down by a lower federal court,
Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell said Tuesday.

'There is no interest of the United States dramatically implicated by the
cable decision. I think it's a case you can't win in the Supreme Court,' Powell
told reporters after addressing the National Association of Broadcasters
convention here.

In March, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down numerous FCC
cable-ownership rules as violations of the First Amendment, including one that
barred a cable operator from serving more than 30 percent of pay TV

Earlier this month, the FCC and the Department of Justice declined to seek
rehearing before the full D.C. Circuit. However, Media Access Project, the
Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America filed for rehearing April

If the court refuses to grant rehearing, the FCC, the DOJ and the
public-interest groups have the opportunity to appeal the case to the Supreme

Powell said the decision not to seek rehearing was a clear signal that
neither the FCC nor the DOJ wants to pursue the case further.

'[The] DOJ didn't want to seek [rehearing], either,' Powell said. 'So I don't
know why they would suddenly seek appeal to the Supreme Court.'

Soon after the March court decision, the FCC suspended conditions that
applied to AT&T Corp., the only cable operator over the 30 percent cap, in
connection with the MSO's merger with MediaOne Group Inc. last June. The FCC had
ordered AT&T to divest its 25 percent stake in Time Warner Entertainment by
May 19.

A few weeks ago, the FCC issued a notice seeking public comment on how the
agency should respond to the court decision, including whether the FCC should
rely on its broader public-interest authority to require AT&T to divest the
TWE stake.