Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Cable Ops

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Washington — The
Supreme Court decision
on indecency last week in
the case of Fox v. Federal
Communications Commission
was all about broadcast
programming, but it could
have implications for cable
operators as well.

The court did not rule,
as some broadcasters had
hoped, that the FCC’s regulation
of broadcast content
was unconstitutional.
That decision could have freed broadcasters to move their
content needle closer to award-winning shows on cable
that feature over-the-top language and sexual situations.

A statement last week from the chairman of the House
Energy & Commerce Committee’s Communications
Subcommittee indicated there could be another cable
upside in the decision, though it remains a long shot.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said the court’s ruling that
the FCC had violated due process by not providing fair
warning to broadcasters before finding their content indecent
was a sign of a bigger problem at the agency. That’s
why he’s pushing his deregulatory FCC-reform bill, a
measure the National Cable & Telecommunications Association

That bill, which has passed in the House but has an
uphill Senate climb, per most bills in this divided Congress,
would require the FCC to identify a market failure,
consumer harm or regulatory investment barrier before
adopting any “economically significant” regulations.

It would also require the FCC to “demonstrate that
the benefits of any regulation outweigh the costs,
and require any conditions imposed on transactions
— think Comcast-NBCUniversal — to be within the
agency’s existing authority and tailored to remedy
any transaction-specific harms.”

Walden said the Supreme Court decision “highlights
once again” a lack of transparency, order and
input on decision-making at the commission: “How
much longer can we allow bad process to produce bad
results? The time is now for reform, such as those included
in the FCC Reform Act.”

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was not seeing
broad brush strokes in the decision, saying it appeared
to be “narrowly limited to procedural issues
related to actions taken a number of years ago.”