FCC's Martin Takes Aim At Comcast (CMCSA)

FCC chairman Kevin Martin got shut down Tuesday, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to clamp down on cable. This time, he’s proposing the FCC adopt a 30% national cap on the size of a cable TV system–a rule known as the Comcast Rule because its practical effect would be to keep Comcast, the only system close to that threshold, from expanding. The feds have long tried to enshrine this cap in law, but it was struck down in federal court six years ago.

Mind you, Comcast (CMCSA) is nowhere near controlling 30% of pay-TV subscribers — that’s not what the proposed rule is about. It’s about the reach of Comcast systems, or “homes passed.” Comcast systems “pass” about 30% of American homes, so the rule would keep the company from buying more systems.

Also on tap for the FCC’s next meeting on Dec. 18 is a proposal to grant Sam Zell a waiver from FCC rules that would allow him to complete his $8.2 billion buyout of Tribune Co. Tribune (TRB) owns radio and TV stations and a newspaper in five separate markets, a violation of current FCC cross-ownership rules. But Martin wants to give Zell a pass while he works on a permanent loosening of those restrictions, a process which is likely to be tied up in the courts for quite some time.

It will be a jam-packed meeting: FCC will plans to rule on SIRI-XMSR that day.

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