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D.C. Lawyer: Cable Cap Hard to Justify

Chicago -- As federal regulators move closer to completing cable-ownership
rules, a cable attorney whose firm represents Comcast Corp. claimed that it's
hard to find much market evidence for rigid ownership limits.

The lawyer -- Michael Hammer of Willkie Farr & Gallagher in Washington,
D.C. -- said the rapid growth of the direct-broadcast satellite industry and the
presence of 300 networks fighting for channel space were indicative of a
cable-distribution market that wasn't impeding the flow of programming to

"It's difficult to find much of a problem in this area," Hammer said at a
National Show panel Sunday. "Frankly, it's hard to justify anything."

The Federal Communications Commission's next big cable project is concluding
the cable-ownership rulemaking, FCC Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree said June

In March 2001, the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit remanded a FCC
rule that limited one cable company to more than 30% of U.S. pay TV

Hammer noted that the three-judge panel insisted that the FCC craft rules
better reflective of the competitive circumstances cable is facing, especially
competition from DBS. The court indicated in the opinion that the FCC had
justified about a 60% cap.

FCC chairman Michael Powell, in comments to reporters recently, said he was
troubled because he didn't think the cable-ownership proceeding had produced a
strong record upon which to base new rules.