Skip to main content

FCC Teeing Up Review of Program Access Rules

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Wednesday that the FCC will consider whether to revamp its program access rules at its March 21 open meeting.

According to an announcement from the chairman, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will "explore" whether to keep, jettison or relax prohibitions on exclusive contracts or whether to revise them to "better address alleged violations."

The FCC voted in 2007 to extend the rules five more years, with the deadline for renewal coming up in October of this year.  Without that renewal, the rules sunset per congressional directive.

The program access rules require that cable operator-owned programming networks be made available to satellite and wired competitors.

In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied a Cablevision challenge to the program access rules, saying that the FCC had not been arbitrary and capricious to renew the rules in 2007, but also saying that by the 2012, it might be time for the ban on exclusive contracts to end.

"We anticipate that cable's dominance in the MVPD market will have diminished still more by the time the Commission next reviews the prohibition," said Chief Judge Sentelle in that opinion, "and expect that at that time the Commission will weigh heavily Congress's intention that the exclusive contract prohibition will eventually sunset."