FCC: Cable Operators’ Leased-Access Reports Due July 15

The Federal Communications Commission gave cable operators until July 15 to file their annual reports outlining channel placements, rates, usage and complaints related to leased access. Those reports had been due April 30.

Cable operators with more than 36 channels are required by FCC rules to set aside 10%-15% (depending on size) for commercial lease to outside parties. That is in addition to the channels they must set aside for public, educational and government use.

The annual reporting requirement is one of several changes to those rules the FCC adopted in an order released Feb. 1 in an effort to make it easier to lease space on cable systems and create more competition to existing channels. Other changes included lowering the rates cable operators can charge and making the complaint process easier for complainants and arguably more rigorous for cable systems by requiring them to produce more documents.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association filed suit against the changes and asked the FCC to stay enforcement, although chairman Kevin Martin told reporters recently that the FCC hadn't done so.

An FCC spokeswoman said the extension does not affect the adoption of the new leased-access rates or the other leased-access rule changes the agency made in that order, although Charlie Stogner, president of the Leased Access Programmers Association, complained that he "hasn't seen any improvement in securing airtime via leased access since the adoption of the new rules."

The FCC also extended from May 15 to July 31 the deadline for comments on its proposal -- part of the same Feb. 1 order -- that the leased-access rate cut not apply to home shopping or infomercial channels.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.