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New pressure on cable TV
Reports: FCC presses Time Warner, Comcast over Adelphia deal; firms set to offer 'family tier.'
December 8, 2005: 8:26 AM EST

NEW YORK ( - The Federal Communications Commission has asked Time Warner and Comcast for an unusual amount of information in its review of their proposed $17.6 billion purchase of the assets of bankrupt cable operator Adelphia Communications, according to a published report Thursday.

The two companies are also in talks to offer a "family tier" of channels to consumers, in response to pressure from the FCC, according to another published report.

The Wall Street Journal reported that FCC's information request for information on the Adelphia deal focuses on several delicate areas, including agreements for regional sports programming and "net neutrality" rights -- essentially preventing the cable providers from discriminating against Internet traffic.

The paper reported that the latter request is notable because FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wasn't particularly concerned about net neutrality in his consideration of two recent mergers of major telecom companies.

Last week, Martin shook the cable industry by endorsing the concept of consumers being allowed to buy only the channels they want from their cable company, a so-called "a la carte" option that the industry has generally fought and that the FCC has no power to require.

The Journal reports that some believe Martin might be using the Adelphia deal to pressure No. 1 cable operator Comcast (Research) and No. 2 Time Warner Cable on this issue.

Martin had suggested that a la carte pricing would be one way to address lawmakers' concerns over allegedly indecent content on cable channels not regulated by the agency. USA Today reported Thursday that Comcast and Time Warner are close to announcing a special "family tier" of programing, including Disney, Discovery and other family-friendly offerings.

The plans, which are still being finalized, are expected to be announced within the next few weeks, according to the report. The paper said any move by the nation's two leading cable operators would likely influence offerings from other providers as well.

The Journal reported that Time Warner (Research) and Comcast executives said there was nothing unusual about the FCC request. "We will work to respond expeditiously to the FCC," a Comcast spokesman told the paper.

In addition, the companies told the paper they were not concerned about Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist issuing civil subpoenas Wednesday for documents related to the deal. Crist said he wants to ensure that the acquisition doesn't harm Florida consumers by reducing competition, the paper reported.

The FCC's request for information suggests that it might demand a number of conditions to approve the Adelphia deal, according to the paper. Opponents of the deal have included independent channels, satellite-TV rivals and consumer groups, the paper reported.

CNN/Money is a unit of Time Warner.

For a closer look at the deal for Adelphia, click here.  Top of page

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