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Revision of Commission's Program Access Rules NPRM

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Released: March 20, 2012

Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).



March 20, 2012
Janice Wise (202) 418-8165



Washington, D.C.: Consistent with the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) regulatory reform agenda and its
efforts to examine regulations that may have become ineffective, the FCC today issued a Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NPRM) initiating a review of the exclusive contract prohibition of the program access rules. Adopted
approximately twenty years ago to promote competition in the video distribution market, this prohibition generally
bans cable operators from entering into exclusive contracts with cable-affiliated programming vendors that deliver
their programming to cable operators via satellite.
In the 1992 Cable Act, Congress provided that this prohibition would expire on October 5, 2002, unless the
Commission found that the prohibition continued to be necessary for competition and diversity in the video
distribution market. On two previous occasions, the Commission found that the exclusive contract prohibition
continued to be necessary and therefore retained it for five years on each occasion. As a result of the most recent
extension in 2007, the prohibition is now scheduled to expire on October 5, 2012.
The NPRM seeks comment on whether the prohibition continues to be necessary. The NPRM asks for input on
various options, including (i) retaining the prohibition; (ii) allowing the prohibition to sunset and relying instead on
protections provided by the program access rules that do not sunset; and (iii) relaxing the prohibition, such as by
considering petitions to remove the prohibition on a market-by-market basis or retaining the prohibition only for
certain “must have” programming, such as Regional Sports Networks. The NPRM also asks about the First
Amendment implications of the various options, the costs and benefits of these options, and the impact of a sunset
of the prohibition.
In addition, the NPRM seeks input on how the program access procedural rules should be revised to accommodate
the case-by-case consideration of complaints alleging a violation of the program access rules. The NPRM also
requests comment on whether the program access rules adequately address potentially discriminatory volume
discounts and uniform price increases and, if not, how these rules should be revised to address these concerns.
Action by the Commission March 20, 2012, by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 12-30). Chairman Genachowski,
Commissioners McDowell and Clyburn.
For further information, contact David Konczal (202-418-2228; or Diana Sokolow (202-418-
0588; of the Media Bureau, Policy Division. Press contact: Janice Wise (202-418-8165;
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