This News Release: Text | WordPerfect
Statements: Kennard | Furchtgott-Roth | Powell | Tristani

fcclogo NEWS

Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

Report No. IN 98-59 INTERNATIONAL ACTION November 19, 1998

(MM DOCKET 93-25)

Today the Commission has adopted rules implementing Section 25 of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, which imposed certain public interest obligations on direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers. The statute requires DBS service providers to set aside a percentage of channel capacity for non-commercial programming of an educational or informational nature.

In implementing these public interest obligations, the Commission has ensured real benefits for the American consumer, while creating workable rules for industry. In carrying out Congress's mandate, the Commission balanced two very important goals -- providing DBS subscribers access to a greater diversity of noncommercial, educational programming, and providing flexible rules for an industry that promises to provide significant competition to cable television.

As a result, the FCC anticipates that a wide variety of programming could soon become available on DBS systems -- distance learning programs produced for all ages, major university research projects shared nationwide, and health applications developed for rural America -- to name only a few.

  • In implementing the statutory requirement, the Commission ruled that DBS providers must set-aside four percent of their channel capacity exclusively for noncommercial programming of an educational or informational nature, thereby expanding the programming choices of millions of consumers.

  • The Commission interpreted the statutory prohibition on editorial control in Section 335(b)(3) as prohibiting DBS licensees from editing program content or choosing particular programming, but as allowing DBS providers to choose among qualified national educational programming suppliers. Thus, DBS providers must choose programmers from among qualifying applicants for the reserved capacity. However, in order to ensure that access to non-commercial channels is available to the widest variety of national educational program suppliers, the Commission limited the number of set-aside channels a single national educational and informational programmer can use to one channel. After all qualified entities that have sought access have been offered access on a least one channel, a DBS provider is permitted to offer a qualified programmer additional channels.

  • As specifically required by statute, DBS licensees must also comply with the political broadcasting rules of Section 312(a)(7) of the Communications Act, granting candidates for federal office reasonable access to broadcasting stations, and 315 of the Act, granting equal opportunities to candidates at the lowest unit charge.

Action by the Commission November 19, 1998, by Report and Order (FCC 98-307). Chairman Kennard, Comissioner Ness, with Chairman Kennard issuing a separate statement and Commissioners Furchtgott-Roth, Powell and Tristani dissenting in part and issuing separate statements.

- FCC -

News Media contact: Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0500.
International Bureau contacts: J.T. Taylor at (202) 418-2113, or Rosalee Chiara at (202) 418-0754.