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FCC Telecommunications Act

On 1 February 1996, after many years of confused, multi-agency and intergovernmental attempts to regulate and make sense of a burgeoning telecommunications industry the FCC telecommunication act was passed which was a review of the 1934 communication act. The bill attempted to provide a level playing field in virtually all sectors of the communications industries. On the 8 February 1996 President Clinton signed the bill into law. The bill was to develop new services in broadcasting and cable, telecommunications, information and video services.

On its launch the president stated that the bill was to “stimulate investment, promote competition, and provide open access for all citizens to the Information Superhighway. The act’s provisions fall into the following areas:-radio and television broadcasting, cable television, telephone services, Internet and on-line computer services and telecommunications equipment manufacturing. How it changed cable programming and broadcast services. Cable networks are programming services that deliver packages of information or entertainment by satellite to local cable television systems.

The cable systems then redistribute the network programs, through wires, to individual residences in their local franchise areas. The number of cable networks carried by any particular cable system varies, and is based on the channel capacity of the system. The first cable network was Home Box Office (HBO) established in 1972 by Time, Inc. as a movie/special service for Time’s local cable system in New York they used the microwave system. In 1975 Time used satellite transmission from Manila to program the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship match for two of its U.

S. cable systems which was easier and cheaper than the microwave system. Upon the successful programming services on the satellite Viacom launched a pay-cable service, Showtime, to compete with HBO. They feed them movies and special events through a network that involved shipping the tapes by mail for microwave relay. In 1983 ended programming after losing $50 million because the service did not receive sufficient financial support from either subscribers or advertisers this resentment by some cable companies to incorporate cable network into their business.

unlike mid to late 1980s, in the 1990s Congress passed a bill requiring cable networks to sell their programming to services in competition with cable, such as direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and multi-channel multipoint distribution services (MMDS). The proposed changes in programming most affected video-on-demand (VOD) cable networks which allowed consumers to select and view a program or movie at any time. The number of cable networks carried by any particular cable system varies, and is based on the channel capacity of the system.

Older cable systems may have as few as twenty channels while newer ones may have more than 150 channels. Cable system managers decide which cable networks will be carried. Their decisions are based on analyses of the requirements of their franchise agreement with the local community they serve, on their own economic needs and abilities, and on local audience needs and wishes. Cable networks can be divided into three major types: basic, pay, and pay-per-view. Effect to the television industry in the near future.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was meant to provide new opportunities and flexibility as well as new competition for cable service providers. Under the act, uniform rate structure requirements will no longer apply to cable operators where there is effective competition from other service providers including the Telephone Company, multi-channel video, direct broadcast satellites and wireless cable systems. For the new effective competition standards to apply, comparable video programming services would have to be available to the franchise community.

Programming on cable television has evolved to services unique to the cable. Although cable systems have always been engineered as predominantly one-way delivery systems, they have some capability to provide limited two-way services and could be designed to offer more interactivity. Future cable systems will focus on developing two-way services even though one-way programming has been the foundation service. The Telecommunications Act requires television set manufacturers to install a blocking device, called the V-chip, in television receivers larger than 13 inches in screen size by 1998.

The Act require programmers to limit minors’ exposure to objectionable material by scrambling channels depicting explicit sexual behavior and blocking access channels that might contain offensive material. The FCC is expected to allocate extra spectrum for the creation of advanced television (ATV) and ancillary services which is limited to existing television licensees. Broadcast ownership limits on television stations was lifted and group owners can now purchase television stations with a maximum service area cap of 35% of the U. S.

population, up from the previous limit of 25% established in 1985. The limits on the number of the stations that may be commonly owned have been completely lifted, though the bill does provide limits on the number of licenses that may be owned within specific markets or geographical areas. Also amended are previous restrictions on foreign ownership of stations. Conclusion Probably the greatest threats to the cable system structure are Congressional actions of the 1990s that have opened the door for telephone companies to enter the cable TV business.

If this happens, cable may perhaps disappear. But the phone companies will have to turn somewhere for programming, no doubt to entities that closely resemble the present cable networks. These changes in both technology and policy will continue to keep cable television services at the center of issues surrounding television. Just as early cable networks transformed the meaning and experience of television programming and viewing, the newer practices will undoubtedly continue to alter our understanding and use of the medium.


Annandale, Virginia, 1987. Waterman, D. “The Failure of Cultural Programming on Cable TV: An Economic Interpretation. ” New York. Clinton, W. 8 February 1996. “Remarks By the President in Signing Ceremony for the Telecommunications Act Conference Report. ” Washington, D. C. : Library of Congress (press release). Garay, Ronald. 1988. Cable Television: A Reference Guide to Information. New York: Greenwood. Le Duc, Don. Cable Television and the FCC; A Crisis in Media Control. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press, 1973.

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