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L.A. Eases Access Ordinance

Regulators in Los Angeles have narrowed the scope of a proposal designed to
prevent cable operators from forging exclusive regional programming agreements,
but systems still vehemently opposed the so-called open-program-access

Operators expressed fears over the spread of a patchwork of regulations that
could hamper development of new local programming. But the resolution's
proponents said they want to ensure that incumbent operators don't stifle
competition by locking overbuilders or other newcomers out of programming

City attorneys disagreed with assertions made by the local cable operators'
association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which
claimed that the local proposal is pre-empted by federal law.

But bowing to criticism earlier this year, Los Angeles withdrew the initial
draft of the ordinance. The new draft -- debated by the industry and the city's
Board of Information Technology Commissioners March 21 -- places more of a focus
on preventing anti-competitive behavior.

The new two-page draft seeks to prevent local multichannel-video-programming
distributors in Los Angeles from coercing a network into providing exclusive
content, and to prevent retaliation against programmers that fail to proffer

Programming services in which an operator has "attributable interest" would
be barred from engaging in "unfair methods of competition" or "deceptive acts or
practices" that hinder distribution of that same content to other Los Angeles

The new draft is closer to federal policy, which prevents exclusive
agreements by satellite-delivered programmers that are owned or controlled by
vertically integrated media companies.