When the definitive history of Kevin Martin’s regulatory reign of terror against the cable industry is finally written, I have a feeling that Ted Hearn of Multichannel News will be the man who pens it. There is no one who has been reporting on these issues longer or with more investigative vigor than Ted. In an absolutely scathing piece today about a former Martin staffer, Ted does a nice job summarizing the major elements of Martin’s war on cable. It reads like the list of grievances against King George found in the Declaration. (Think: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.”) Anyway, I just thought I’d throw Ted’s list up here for those keeping score at home:
— He secretly rewrote an FCC study issued in November 2004 that had concluded that cable a la carte was a bad idea.
— He walked away from a handshake agreement with NCTA, Comcast and Time Warner that the rollout of family programming packages would end his a la carte jihad.
— He stripped cable’s control over critical wiring in apartment buildings, affirming the identical policy that a court had previously struck down.
— He voided exclusive contracts between cable operators and apartment building owners just a few years after the FCC gave the green light to such deals.
— He required cable operators to carry must carry TV stations in analog and digital for three years after voting against such a policy in February 2005.
— He extended program access rules for five years, a gift to DirecTV and Dish Network even though the two satellite providers are larger than every cable company in the U.S. except Comcast and Time Warner.
— He imposed expensive set-top box equipment mandates on cable, making it vastly more costly for Comcast and Time Warner to reach the goal of all-digital platforms.
— He capped cable ownership at 30% of pay-TV subscribers nationally—the same limit that a federal court kicked back to the FCC as unlawful—while letting AT&T and Verizon basically divide the country’s phone market.
— He slashed cable leased access rates to zero in an act of bureaucratic malice that a federal appeals court has now blocked and that the Office of Management and Budget has rejected as a violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
— He decided to brand Comcast an Internet outlaw when all the company did was occasionally frustrate a tiny minority of customers whose massive consumption of Web porn and pirated Hollywood films was destroying the service for others.