Stogner Has 'Access' to Grind Over FCC, Cable Treatment

Charles Stogner, president of the Leased Access Programmers Association (LAPA) and of programmer StogMedia, says cable operators have a mandate from Congress to be a genuine outlet for leased access programming as a way to promote choice, diversity and competition and the FCC has a responsibility to make that happen.

In his view, both have fallen down on the job, big time.

That came in comments to the FCC as it prepares to weigh into that issue as it considers leased access rule changes that have been stayed since 2008, when cable operators filed suit against them. The changes never went into effect.

Stogner gave an "amen" to leased access fan Andrew Schwartzman's observation in the same comment docket that "leased access was a promising concept that the FCC strangled at birth," saying that the FCC "recreated" leased access in ways that hurt programmers.

Related: FCC Says TW Must Stop Charging StogMedia Per-Insertion Fees For Leased Access

As for cable operators--who are asking the FCC to eliminate the rules, arguing they date from a time when there was far less diversity and competition in video and no over-the-top outlets for independent video--Stogner says mega-operators no longer even try to be part of their local communities.

"[C]able operators wailing about the time and expense of handling leased access are only shedding ‘crocodile tears,' he says. "With leased access being a law since 1984 it’s hard to imagine any cable operator not being aware of the requirements when developing or purchasing an existing system."

Cable operators have complained of the time and effort to respond to leased access requests, seeking to limit their responsibilities to only "bona fide" requests. "With office workers already in place it should only take a few minutes, perhaps only seconds, to answer the request, not the hours they seem to have complained to OMB [Office of Management and Budget] would be involved."

Related: How Much for Leased Access

Stogner also says the FCC has allowed cable ops to move leased access from a basic channel to a less-viewed tier, even though "Congress emphatically instructed FCC not to permit cable operators to place leased access on channels where the operator had ‘market power’ over leased access."

"Perhaps its time now to leave the lawyers out of the room and have FCC’s staff finally meet with representatives of our association, LAPA, and have open and extensive discussions of how they see programmers as having been treated, or I suggest ‘mistreated’ by cable and FCC’s staff and finish establishing rules governing leased access."

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.