FCC Could Give Timeline for Cable Carriage Complaints

The National Association of Independent Networks cheered the action.

Responding to the gripes of programmers about their access to cable systems, the FCC will consider new rules on the complaint process for those alleging discriminatory carriage practices by cable companies.

Among the proposed changes would be a six-month timeline for the FCC response to complaints from programmers against cable operators.

The order is on the agenda for the commission’s Dec. 18 meeting, along with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on more issues related to program carriage, including program bundling, channel assignment and tier placement.

The National Association of Independent Networks cheered the action.

"The FCC has signaled that it is serious about ensuring there is a level playing field in carriage decisions that is welcoming to independent voices,” the group said in a statement. “Carriage access discrimination reform is a big step forward in ensuring more programming competition that will lead to more meaningful choices and lower cable prices for the consumer.”

NAIN and various programmers including HDNet, Wealth TV and the NFL Network have complained that cable operators give preferential treatment to networks they own and grant limited or no carriage access to similar networks owned by others.

Although the item is on the FCC’s December docket, there is no guarantee that Chairman Kevin Martin will have the votes needed to move it forward, and many FCC meetings have been delayed as details and votes get hammered out.

Also at the Dec. 18 meeting, Martin plans to levy $11 million in DTV-education fines, but he did not elaborate on the offenses or on the identities of the accused.