The Cabinet Committee Report to the President on Cable Communications

by Leland Johnson

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Summarizes and comments on a report on cable network ownership and control. Balancing conflicting pressures, a few proposals would take effect immediately, with the rest phased in gradually. Major recommendations include: (1) separating program content from cable ownership and operation; (2) no restriction on cross-media ownership or multiple ownership — except (3) forbidding telephone companies to own cable systems; (4) no government regulation of program or service prices or content, dropping fairness and equal time rules; (5) copyright payment (amount unspecified); (6) protecting individual privacy, and (7) facilitating minority ownership, operation, and programming. "Antisiphoning" restrictions on pay cable TV are endorsed for now, eliminated after the industry matures — just the reverse of what is needed. Except for suggesting a demonstration project, the report does little to resolve the many uncertainties surrounding urban cable development. Rapid implementation seems unlikely, since the President has not yet endorsed the report and only two of the seven committee members remain in government service. (Prepared for [InterMedia], International Broadcast Institute, London.)

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