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C-SPAN 3 to Televise FCC Cable Ownership Vote

C-SPAN 3 said it plans to televise a public meeting at the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday in which FCC chairman Kevin Martin and other commissioners are expected to pass new cable ownership rules.

The public meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, will also be available on C-SPAN’s Web site.

The biggest item on Tuesday’s meeting agenda is a vote on a rule that would prevent any cable company from serving more than 30% of all U.S. pay TV subscribers.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin wants to impose the cap to frustrate Comcast’s ability to make a big acquisition. With 26.1 million subscribers and 27% market share under FCC rules, Comcast could likely acquire Cablevision Systems’s 3.1 million subscribers, but probably not Charter Communications’s 5.3 million subscribers.

Time Warner Cable — with 13.3 million subscribers, or 14% of the 96.9 million pay TV subscriber universe — has a lot more headroom under the cap than Comcast.

The cable-ownership cap is also about Martin’s dogged campaign to inflict regulatory harm on cable operators and programmers until the industry agrees to Martin’s demand that all cable channels should be sold in an a la carte menu.

The 30% cap is expected to be adopted with FCC Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein joining Martin to produce at least a one-vote majority. It is unclear whether FCC Republicans Deborah Taylor Tate and Robert McDowell will end up voting with Martin.