Time Warner Seeks VBI Ruling


Opening a new front in its regulatory battle with Gemstar-TV Guide
International Inc., Time Warner Cable asked federal regulators Wednesday to rule
that cable operators may block electronic program guides.

Gemstar filed a Federal Communications Commission complaint in March 2000
against Time Warner for stripping its EPG from the vertical-blanking interval
embedded in broadcast signals that have obtained cable carriage.

Gemstar withdrew the complaint last month just as the FCC was about to rule
in favor of Time Warner, according to FCC and other sources.

Time Warner filed a 'petition for declaratory ruling' with the FCC Wednesday
and asked for 'expedited treatment' of its claim that cable operators are not
required to transmit EPGs.

Time Warner said that even though 'program-related' material has a right to
VBI carriage, EPGs that contain extensive programming information, in addition
to advertising and promotional information, fall outside of the definitional
boundary of 'program-related' under FCC rules.

'No reason exists to expand the concept of `program-related' to include EPG
data,' the MSO said, adding that forced carriage of EPGs would also violate the
First Amendment rights of cable operators.

Gemstar claimed that it is legally entitled to utilize the VBI.

Time Warner stopped stripping Gemstar's EPG while FCC action was pending.
However, the operator said it would reconsider its action if Gemstar attempted
to frustrate or delay FCC resolution of the dispute.