Martin Defends Cable Rate Inquiry

Cable and satellite operators have made no secret that they plan to scoop up new business during the digital transition of their over-the-air counterparts.

But an FCC investigation is seeing if cable is going too far and exploiting consumer confusion to raise prices. And Chairman Kevin Martin defended the Enforement Bureau inquiry Monday.

“I completely disagree with the insinuation that it’s somehow harassing for the Enforcement Bureau to be investigating,” Martin said in a response to a reporter’s charge following an event marking 100 days before the DTV transition.

At issue are the practices of moving programs from analog to digital tiers, thus giving analog viewers fewer channels for the same money; or of convincing viewers that that need to switch to higher-priced digital packages because of the over-the-air DTV transition—which they do not.

Oct. 30, the Enforcement Bureau sent letters to leading cable operators, wanting to know about channel changes and how viewers were informed. Cable operators have maintained that they remove channels from analog packages to free up bandwidth for more digital and high-definition channels. And, they note, they’re all going all-digital eventually in any event.

“Certainly we don’t want to see them using the DTV transition to confuse viewers,” Martin said.