The Future of Cable Television

Some Problems of Federal Regulation

by Leland Johnson

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The first of a series of studies of cable TV and the public interest under Ford Foundation sponsorship. Contrary to present FCC policy, the study concludes that the public interest is best served by allowing cable TV to grow freely under liberal rules, picking up distant broadcast signals without restriction except for payment (which is not now made). By paying for retransmission rights and by originating programs that are also available for retransmission, cable TV would share in the costs of broadcasting, thus making up for any loss of broadcasting revenue from advertisers. If cable TV should later become a real competitive threat to over-the-air TV, protective regulations should be tailored to the needs of the most vulnerable stations rather than serving, as now, to protect the profit levels of the strong VHF stations in the largest cities. The aim is to strengthen the weak stations rather than to eliminate the competition that offers promise of a far richer TV menu; a promising method is to require nondiscriminatory access to all programs for all stations.

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