Comcast Spotlight

The FCC still has over 100 complaints against video news releases to go through, all but a handful against TV stations.

But as of yesterday, the only five fines it had issued for failure to provide on-screen idenitifications for VNR’s the FCC concluded needed them, were against cable operator Comcast. They were the first ever issued for such violations, so the cable industry now gets to be in the record books for something it would just as soon not.

Comcast says the VNR’s didn’t violate the rules and that cable isn’t subject to them anyway, but the FCC did not agree to the tune of $20,000 in fines.

Comcast, the biggest cable operator in the nation, is the same operator that asked for and was twice denied a waiver of the FCC’s set-top box rules, and the same Comcast whose request for a ruling that The America Channel was not a regional sports network was also recently denied by the FCC.

They were all separate issues, but the confluence of hits just adds fuel to the cable industry’s arguments that the FCC under Chairman Kevin Martin has been hammering it pretty hard. Martin has also been a vocal and very public critic of cable rates.

The chairman said Tuesday, according to a spokesman, that the reason Comcast was cited was that all the TV stations agreed to waive the one-year statute of limitations on the FCC’s investigation into the complaints, while Comcast did not, so that the FCC either had to issue the NALs or drop the complaints and decided to do the former.

Chairman Martin also says that no regulated industries like it when calls don’t go their way, but with his aggressive push for a an a la carte business model cable says the government has no businesses imposing, the industry’s estiness is understandable.

And speaking of overarching pushes, the commission also just released the paperwork on an inquiry into whether cable operators should be allowed to tie channels when striking programming deals, another move that threatens its long-standing business model.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.