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FCC Won’t Appeal Cable Programming Ruling

August 2, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Communications Commission said Friday it would not try to save an agency rule, recently struck down by a federal court, that requires cable television operators to carry local commercial TV signals.

FCC Chairman Mark Fowler and two other commissioners, representing a majority of the five-member board, not only directed the agency’s lawyers not to appeal the court decision but also issued a statement praising the ruling.

The decision ″takes the first step toward a true marketplace for the distribution of programming by cable systems,″ and ″represents a positive step toward full First Amendment protection for all forms of electronic media,″ they said.

Commissioner James Quello opposed the directive, and commissioner Henry Rivera didn’t participate in the decision.

The statement by Fowler and commissioners Dennis Patrick and Mimi Weyforth Dawson said of the court-opposed FCC regulations: ″These rules displaced consumer choice in many cases and so interfered with the marketplace.″

The basic regulation in question, known as the ″must-carry″ rule, has required cable systems to re-transmit all commercial TV stations within 35 miles of the community served, other stations in the same television market and all stations ″significantly viewed in the community.″

Cable operators applauded the July 19 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. However, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, Edward Fritts, called it ″a blow to the localized system of broadcasting in this nation.″

The association has been expected to formally ask the Supreme Court to overturn the decision. The court said its ruling would not take effect until next Friday to give all interested parties a chance to appeal.

The three FCC commissioners said in their statement: ″We have carefully considered the possibility of retooling the must-carry rules. At this point we cannot conceive of a new set of rules which would accomplish the commission’s policy goals and would meet the constitutional test outlined in the (court) decision.″

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