Nondisclosure costs AT & T little

The FCC last week ordered AT & T to pay $9,000 for failing to be upfront about how many cable subscribers recent mergers would add.

Consumers Union and other public advocacy groups complained in October that AT & T and Tele-Communications Inc., the predecessor to AT & T's cable subsidiary, failed to disclose how three mergers would alter the companies' national audience reach. The FCC, to ensure cable systems do not exceed the 30% cable ownership cap on share of U.S. multichannel subscribers, requires any system already at a 20% share to certify any resulting changes in audience reach when filing merger applications.

The deficient applications included transactions with Galaxy Cablevision and FHF Cable in 1999 and Comcast in January. AT & T argued that certifications are due only prior to closing a transaction, not necessarily when a company files an application.

But FCC officials said a review of AT & T and TCI certification letters reveals the companies were "obviously aware" of the certification requirements and "willfully and repeatedly" violated the rule.