In the Matter of AMENDMENT OF PART 74, SUBPART K, OF THE COMMISSION'S RULES AND REGULATIONS RELATIVE TO COMMUNITY ANTENNA TELEVISION SYSTEMS; AND INQUIRY INTO THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY AND SERVICES TO FORMULATE REGULATORY POLICY AND RULEMAKING AND/OR LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS; AMENDMENT OF PART 74, SUBPART K, OF THE COMMISSION'S RULES AND REGULATIONS RELATIVE TO DIVERSIFICATION OF CONTROL OF COMMUNITY ANETNNA TELEVISION SYSTEMS; AND INQUIRY WITH RESPECT THERETO TO FORMULATE REGULATORY POLICY AND RULEMAKING AND/OR LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS; AMENDMENT OF PART 74, SUBPART K, OF THE COMMISSION'S RULES AND REGULATIONS RELATIVE TO FEDERAL-STATE OR LOCAL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE COMMUNITY ANTENNA TELEVISION SYSTEMS FIELDS; AND/OR FORMULATION OF LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS IN THIS RESPECT; AMENDMENT OF SUBPART K OF PART 74 OF THE COMMISSION'S RULES AND REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO TECHNICAL STANDARDS FOR COMMUNITY ANTENNA TELEVISION SYSTEMS
Docket No. 18397-A; Docket No. 18891; Docket No. 18892; Docket No. 18894
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
27 F.C.C.2d 303
RELEASE-NUMBER: FCC 71-103
February 4, 1971 Released
Adopted February 3, 1971
BY THE COMMISSION: COMMISSIONER JOHNSON CONCURRING AND ISSUING A STATEMENT.
[*303] 1. The Commission has indicated that it plans to be briefed by its staff regarding comments filed in the above-captioned proceedings, and that, thereafter, it plans to conduct an en banc hearing dealing with cable policy in accordance with procedures to be announced subsequently. Order in Docket No. 18397-A, FCC 70-1076, 26 FCC 2d 4 (released October 7, 1970). We believe it now timely to announce the hearing dates and procedures to be followed for en banc hearing.
2. To begin with, it is appropriate to note that these proceedings have already attracted both voluminous and diverse comment from [*304] numerous sources. While we are assured that our staff will be able to summarize the varied pleadings and place them in useful form, we are concerned, nonetheless, that care be spent in fashioning procedures for the en banc hearing to assure that it yields maximum return to the Commission and to the various participants. We have decided to use a two-part approach -- (i) the usual oral presentation by interested persons or their representatives, and (ii) a new approach of panels of contending experts or industry spokesmen, directed to some of the important issues. The first approach needs no explanation and simply assures coverage of all matters and an opportunity to all interested persons. The second is innovative and experimental, and we shall therefore discuss it briefly.
3. We are mindful of a substantial objection to large multiparty proceedings which contain a variety of controversies: no convenient, really effective mechanism exists for assuring a sharpening of issues between parties contending for different viewpoints. As a result it is frequent experience that the records of such hearings contain numerous inconsistent claims and arguments which have never been subjected to the discipline of informed criticism or the test of hostile advocacy. We wish to avoid this possibility in the present proceeding. Consequently, we are embarking on the above noted experimental approach for conducting the en banc proceeding.
4. Our objective can, we suspect, be best achieved by selecting particularly knowledgeable persons and inviting them to direct presentations to specific selected issues. In order to achieve the interplay of informed views which we seek, we propose to organize panels of recognized spokesmen for different contending viewpoints and to create circumstances in which issue can be joined on specific matters. To launch this experiment, we wish to organize panels to discuss the following topics:
(a) Possible benefits and detriments of CATV operation in markets below the top 100, including particularly the economic impact of CATV operation on television broadcast stations;
(b) Possible benefits and detriments of CATV operation in the top-100 markets, its need to utilize out-of-market signals, and the potential economic impact of CATV operation in these circumstances on television broadcast stations;
(c) Directions in which cable systems should be headed by the Commission in order to improve their potential for service to the public including, for example, such matters as minimum channel specifications, two-way communication, "local access" channels (including all the possibilities noted in par. 16, Docket 18397-A), program origination and the consequences of any such new directions on the regulation, ownership or manner of operation of CATV; and whether separation of ownership of hardware and control over content should be encouraged, i.e., the assertion of common carrier jurisdiction;
(d) Whether the proposals made in Docket 18397-A for commercial switching and for payments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are feasible and, if so, whether they are a desirable approach to the distant signal problem; and the appropriate form of an accompanying copyright settlement; and
[*305] (e) Whether CATV systems should be owned by public or educational entities (as, for example, proposed by the Ford Foundation) and, if such ownership is considered desirable, whether such organizations should receive preference in obtaining CATV facilities.
(f) Appropriate regulations between federal, state, and local regulatory bodies in dealing with CATV.
5. Persons desiring to participate in these panels are requested to give written notice of their willingness to appear and participate within five days of the release date of this Order. In addition, the Commission reserves the right to invite other parties to participate if it appears that volunteers do not give an adequate balance to a proposed panel.
6. As stated, in addition to these panels, the Commission also will receive oral presentations from interested parties who have filed either comments or reply comments in these proceedings. Persons wishing to be heard in this portion of the hearings should file within five days after the release date of this Order a written notice of intention to appear and participate which will also give sufficient indication of the nature of interest to permit appropriate grouping. The Commission will be further Order designate the persons included in each group and the amount of time allocated to the group. Within each designated group, the parties may specify the time allotted each for oral presentation.
7. If agreement as to the allocation of time within each group is reached, the Commission shall be advised of the provisions thereof at least five calendar days prior to the date of oral presentation. If agreement as to the allocation of time within any group cannot be reached, the Commission shall be notified at least five calendar days prior to the date of oral argument; the Commission will itself allot a period of time to each of the parties within such group. We urge the interested persons, however, to make every effort to reach an understanding as to the allocation of time.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, That oral argument IS SCHEDULED before the Commission en banc, beginning March 11, 1971 at 9:30 a.m. and continuing on the following days in March: 12, 15, 16 (half day), 18, 19, 25 and 26. Persons desiring to make oral presentations SHALL FILE within five days after the release date of this Order, a written notice of intention to appear and participate, which shall also give sufficient indication of the nature of the interest to permit the Commission to divide the participating parties into groups.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, BEN F. WAPLE, Secretary.
CONCURRING OPINION OF COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS JOHNSON
I concur in the innovative "panel" approach to this inquiry.
There are other issues I would have preferred to see identified. The success of the undertaking will turn almost entirely on the extent to which outside parties who are economically disinterested, imaginative, intelligent representatives of the public interest will be sought out and encouraged to participate heavily as members of the panels. I am not yet confident that is intended or likely.