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Lobbying Group: FCC Should Tighten Oversight on Leased-Access Rules

The Federal Communications Commission systematically favoring the cable industry? That is not a charge you here much around Washington, D.C., these days.

But don't tell Charlie Stogner, head of the Jackson, Miss.-based Leased Access Programmers Association, who has been lobbying the FCC for years to tighten its oversight and enforcement of leased-access rules.

The commission last month voted to do just that, and to lower rates, as well. But with no order to go on, Stogner remained concerned about Media Bureau follow-through and cable market power.

In a fax to senators in advance of a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing with FCC commissioners Thursday, Stogner said, "The Media Bureau, rather than assisting [leased-access programmers] in continuing to have local channels, appears to always defend the cable giants' action."

Stogner suggested some questions the senators might want to ask during the hearing, including this one: "[H]ave the individual commissioners ever even reviewed the few rules FCC has created governing ‘leased access?’ If so or if not, do they think the users of leased access are remiss in asking for better rules and guidelines?"

If anyone asks that question, or one about cable consolidation leading to fewer headends and, thus, fewer opportunities for local channels, it's probably thanks to the persistence of Stogner.

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.