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FCC Wants to Kill Channel Lineup Rules

The commission has been on a tear of revising or eliminating rules that it considers outdated. Now here comes another, this time affecting cable operators.

The FCC wants to kill a rule that requires cable operators to maintain, at their local office, a listing of channels that each system delivers to subscribers. Noting that this dates to 1972, it tentatively concluded that the requirement is no longer necessary or even useful because channel lineup information is “readily available” from websites, on-screen program guides and paper guides. All five commissioners supported the notice of proposed rulemaking.

Chairman Ajit Pai called it “bizarre” that the FCC still has this rule in the internet age.

“The FCC’s channel-lineup rules might have made sense back when they were adopted in 1972,” he wrote in a statement. “I say ‘might’ because the commission didn’t actually explain back then why it thought that these regulations were necessary. As the notice surmises, perhaps the intent was to help the agency verify compliance with certain technical performance standards that no longer exist. Or perhaps it thought that viewers might well visit a cable operator’s local office to track down Meathead from ‘All in the Family,’” which Pai reminded readers was one of the most-watched television programs in America then.

[Read: FCC Eliminates Hard Copy Rules]

But given all the readily available information in 2018, Pai continued, “Archie Bunker might very well deem a meathead anyone who actually visited a cable operator’s local office to view channel lineup information.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking also asks for input on what the channel lineup requirements for small cable operators should be if the rule is eliminated. And it invites comments on whether the FCC should also eliminate a requirement that certain cable operators make channel lineup available via online public inspection file or instead require them to put information on their websites.

For filing comments, use Media Bureau docket numbers 18-92 and 17-105.