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DBS Gets Political Speech, Kids' Rules

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to apply modified versions of broadcast and cable political-broadcasting rules to direct-broadcast satellite.

In addition, it will hold satellite broadcasters to the same rules limiting commercials in children's programming that apply to cable and broadcast, except where it is simply a passive carrier.

Last April, the FCC had voted not to apply either set of rules to DBS, saying it would treat DBS political speech issues on a case-by-case basis and that there was no evidence of  overcommercialization that needed fixing. But the commissioners had second thoughts, did not release the order, and a year later reversed themselves on those two points, while leaving essentially alone  the rest of the order, which pertained to other challenges to the FCC's implementation of the 1992 Cable Act.

The Commission decided that DBS technology for inserting local ads had progressed to the point where rules for political ads could be applied, though tweaked on a case-by-bay case basis. It also decided that rather than wait for overcommercialization issues to arise, it would take a prophylactic approach.

It was a victory for FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who had supported most of the the first order but dissented on the political broadcasting and overcommercialization portions.