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Reaction Pours In Over FCC's 70/70 Retreat

Reaction flowed over the electronic transom Wednesday in response to the Federal Communications Commission's decision Tuesday that it did not have the data to back up an assertion that cable had reached a market-power threshold that could trigger new regulation like program unbundling or ownership caps.

That reaction ranged from the ringing praises of the Rev. Jesse Jackson for Democratic commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, to more praise for Adelstein, to the admonitions of the Parents Television Council not to give up trying to rein in cable.

Adelstein was one of two Democratic commissioners concerned about cable's power, but he proved more concerned that the justification for reining it in was based on insufficient data. He said he would be ready to regulate if cable had met the benchmark, but he could not yet say that was the case with any certainty.

This response from Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which has made media concentration a key issue: "I am relieved that the FCC has chosen to take a deep breath and reconsider a policy agenda that would have demolished minority voices in the media. Commissioner Adelstein has more than earned the respect and praise of the civil-rights community for his strong leadership at the moment of truth and his righteous protest of anti-diversity proposals that some at the commission continue to raise despite staunch opposition. I hope the words of commissioner Adelstein, in harmony with the chorus of civil-rights voices on these issues, continue to ring in the halls of the FCC for some time.”

And this from the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders: "By standing up to a heavy-handed FCC chairman who was attempting to win authority to push through an anti-diversity agenda without public comment, commissioner Adelstein today protected the rights of minority viewers and deserves a hearty round of applause."

This from Free Press policy director Ben Scott, who wasn't as sanguine about the failure to establish that cable had surpassed 70% coverage (nobody disputes that) and 70% subscribership (which lots of people dispute): "We greatly regret that the 70/70 item could not be approved yesterday. The record shows strong evidence that the standard has been met, and the public benefits of the policy are clear. However, we support the commission’s new initiative to collect fresh data and reach a finding as rapidly as possible.”

Then there was the PTC’s Tim Winter, importuning Martin to continue to do battle against the cable "cartel": "The FCC and Congress need to listen to American families and consumers rather than to the banter of Washington power brokers and lobbyists for the cable industry. Some members of Congress have spoken out against the FCC’s rightful attempt to interpret existing federal law that would change the status quo within the cable industry for the benefit of families, consumers and minorities. Interestingly enough, many of those members are taking large campaign contributions from the cable industry.”

Winter continued, “As the discussion continues, the PTC lauds chairman Martin for his leadership on the issue of cable choice and for his determination to hold the cable industry accountable to existing federal law. We also encourage the FCC to seek independent research on cable-subscriber numbers that will be pivotal in determining whether the so-called 70/70 threshold has been met, rather than allowing the cable industry to do its own Enron-type accounting."