Ombudsman Looking Into Leased Access Complaints

The congressionally created Office of the National Ombudsman says the FCC is "working to a get a response" to leased access programmer Charlie Stogner.

Stogner for months has been trying to get an answer as to whether cable operators are required to provide him the same access to their head-ends via the Internet that they do non-leased access programmers like, say, HBO.

According to an e-mail from a case manager to Stogner, the ombudsman's office has been in contact with the FCC and has been assured that the commission is working on a response.

The Office of National Ombudsman was created to request a "a high-level review by appropriate agency personnel of a small business' treatment during a regulatory enforcement action."

It also reports annually to Congress with an evaluation of the enforcement actions of various agencies and personnel.

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps has asked the bureaus to start moving on some noncontroversial decisions, seeking to clear up what he calls a "backlog of routine items, which gave Stogner, who heads the Leased Access Programmers Association, some hope that he would finally get a ruling.

Stogner says he is paying a hundred dollars a month in eight different places while other non-leased programmers, HBO for example, not only get free satellite reception but operators put up the dish and all the equipment.

Stogner says that while FCC staffers regularly meet with representatives of the cable industry to discuss their concerns, the same does not hold for leased access programmers.

"I simply cannot understand why an agency that apparently if entrusted to see the will of Congress is done, in this case in fairly implementing leased access, absolutely refuses to even discuss the variety of problems leased access programmers have with individual cable sites," he says.

For the time being, the DTV transition and the issues involved with changing the hard date to June 12 are the principal focus of the commission, said a spokesman.

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.