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Cable Industry Weighs in on FCC's Future of Media Inquiry

The cable industry weighed in on the FCC's Future of Media inquiry in comments Friday (May 7) and the message was essentially: the future is now.

The FCC wants input on what, if anything, the government needs to do to address the impact of cylical (economic) and secular (Internet) changes to newsgathering and public information.

In its comments, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association cautioned the commission not to impose any new regulations on the industry, arguing that it is already doing plenty to keep its viewers informed, from local government on-demand channels to commercial cable news channels, national and local/regional to C-SPAN.

"We appreciate that the Public Notice makes clear that the 'starting point is the First Amendment,' said the cable operators, "and that many of the challenges encountered in today's media environment will be addressed by the private for-profit and non-profit sectors, without government intervention."

Citing a recent characterization of C-SPAN as "the other Washington monument," NCTA told the FCC that it was one of the cable industries "most important contributions" to keeping the public informed.

"On a typical cable system, subscribers may view news content on linear programming networks or on-demand. In addition, cable provides consumers access to countless news sources via their broadband connections," said NCTA. It added that it also carries the news programming offered by all the local broadcast TV stations it must carry (those stations outlined their own efforts in a separate filing).

In announcing the inquiry back in January, the commission said that "any time the government reviews the structure of the news media, it must do so with great sensitivity to the paramount need to protect free speech and an independent press."

NCTA wants to make sure the FCC hews to what the FCC itself said at the time would be a version of the Hippocratic oath's "first do no harm" admonition.

"New and innovative ways to deliver news and information are quickly evolving in the digital environment, and the cable industry is adapting to this environment and meeting the demands and needs of its customers," said NCTA. "Imposing new regulations on cable operators or programmers is not necessary at this time, and, as we recently explained to the Commission, the Communications Act and the First Amendment strictly constrain the Commission's authority to regulate cable content."

Comments were due May 7. The inquiry is not expected to result in its own rulemaking proposals, but instead inform proposals in other ongoing inquiries, including on media ownership and diversity rules. The FCC is also considering creating a fund to help noncommercial media as part of the national broadband plan.