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Dereg Gets Extra FCC Scrutiny

The extent and impact of media concentration is getting extra scrutiny in the Federal Communications Commission's latest annual review of competition in the pay TV business.

Added to the usual request for industry data on the numbers of companies providing service and subscribers to each type of service, the FCC is requesting information that will allow the FCC to evaluate "horizontal" concentration in the cable, satellite and smaller sectors of the pay-TV business as well as "vertical" integration between programming networks owned by cable and satellite operators.

Also being examined: The prospects for new entrants to that market, factors that have helped or hurt competition, and the effect of competition on industry groups and consumers.

The request for new information pleased FCC Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who have complained that previous inquiries failed to get sufficient information to judge the impact of industry trends on prices and availability of programming.

"Our analysis can be only as good as the data going into it," Copps said. Adelstein called the changes "a comprehensive and appropriate way to start." If industry players refuse to provide the data voluntarily this year, the FCC said it will propose making the data submission a requirement for licensees of video services.

Deadline for comments and submitting data will be set when the inquiry is published in the Federal Register.