Tales of the Sausage Factory

An Appreciation For Commissioner Adelstein

Like everyone else in the telecom world, I’m pleased and relieved the Senate finally confirmed Julius Genachowski and reconfirmed Robert McDowell. But I need to echo Commissioner Copps’ sentiments that seeing Commissioner Adelstein go makes this particular bit of good news hard to take.

Long time readers know I’ve been a huge fan of Adelstein. I should add that I have equally been a huge fan of his staff, particularly Rudy Brioche and Renee Crittendon, with whom I’ve done a lot of work over the years.

What I have always admired about Adelstein is that he has been a Populist in the best sense of the word, and in the finest tradition of rural America. i.e., someone who actually cares about people and takes the time to listen to them and fight for their issues. Over the years, Adelstein has always tried to make the time to come to events where he can hear directly from people — whether at industry trade shows or a modest gathering of community wireless activists. He has always tried to make sure that everyone has the opportunity for meaningful access to both new media and old. He has spoken passionately about the need to make sure that the benefits of broadband are accessible to everyone. He has been a friend to PEG and leased access as means for independent programmers to bring independent viewpoints to cable and because of his appreciation for the importance of local programming. Side by side with Commissioner Copps, he toured the country and rallied opposition against any relaxation of media ownership rules. He pushed harder than anyone for the Commission to take on the problem of Payolla, and repeatedly called for more ways to get independent musicians and local talent on the air.

I will miss Adelstein’s energy and friendly spirit at the Commission. On the positive side, he is certainly the right man to run the broadband program at RUS. Adelstein has always been at his most enthusiastic when looking to see how new technologies can improve people’s lives, particularly in rural America. I look forward to seeing what he can do with $2.5 Bn to revolutionize broadband access in rural communities. Hopefully, the Senate Agriculture Committee will move quickly to hold a hearing and speed him through the confirmation process.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Section 616: The Wheels of Justice Roll (albeit slowly) At the FCC.

Back last November, the FCC considered reforming various rules designed to limit cable market power. While the FCC did adopt rules limiting the size of cable operators to 30% of the market and lowering the rates for leased access, the FCC failed to move forward on reform of its rules for how independent programmers can file complaints against cable operators for unfairly discriminating against them based on affiliation or lack thereof.

But now things are looking up. Last Friday, the Media Bureau addressed several pending complaints and designated them for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. Unsurprisingly, the NFL got the media attention, but the more typical case was that of WealthTV — and it is that case that is therefore likely to have more long term impact on the industry (not that the NFL and MASN cases weren’t important as precedent).

This doesn’t eliminate the need for an Order that would clarify how the process works and set a reasonable time table for complainants and defendants, but it does help to move things along for those who dared to trust the process by filing a complaint, and may put heart into the rest of the independent programming industry to hang in there and keep trying.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast Morally Outraged That America Channel Adjusts Business Model to FCC Rules. Cats outraged when mice fight back.

Some of you may recall The America Channel and their efforts to blow the whistle on Comcast’s exercise of market power in the cable programming world. As part of resolution of the Adelphia transaction, the Commission declined to provide any specific relief for The America Channel. They did promise to have a general rulemaking on the carriage complaint process (whereby independent programmers complain that cable operators have illegally discriminated against them) and the leased access process (whereby independents can lease access to the cable system) (a proceeding the Commission announced last month). The Commission also created special protection for regional sports networks (RSNs) so that Comcast could not do unto others as they did unto Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. As part of the FCC’s order approving the Adelphia transaction, a regional sports network can demand carriage on Comcast or Time Warner, and can require that an arbitrator resolve the cost issues.

TAC, seeing that it would get nowhere with its old programming idea, proceeded to reinvent itself as a regional sports network. It has deals with a number of NCAA Division I schools — particularly for the less popular women’s sports, which it will bring to the various regions the schools are in. TAC will pay for the production costs but will not pay for the games themselves, a reversal of the usual royalty agreement I understand. TAC has gotten carriage on cable overbuilder RCN, provided TAC can reach the critical mass of carriage on other providers to achieve viability.

So how’s that working out, and what will the FCC do? More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Help Stop The Merger Madness

My friends at Free Press have set up this page to file comments opposing the AT&T/BellSouth Merger and the Comcast/Time Warner/Adelphia deal.

I won’t go over old ground again in detail here. You can read why I think the FCC should stop Comcast and Time Warner from dividing up the bankrupt Adelphia cable, the disappointing go ahead from the Federal Trade Commission, and my growing hope that the FCC will impose strong conditions or kill the deal. With a deadline for the companies to walk away from the deal fast approaching, you can help push the FCC to do the right thing.

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