In Re COX-COSMOS, INC., CHARLOTTE, N.C. Request for Waiver of Section 74.1111 of the Commission's Rules
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
29 F.C.C.2d 323
RELEASE-NUMBER: FCC 71-524
May 18, 1971 Released
Adopted May 12, 1971
BY THE COMMISSION: COMMISSIONERS BARTLEY, ROBERT E. LEE AND H. REX LEE ABSENT; COMMISSIONER JOHNSON DISSENTING AND ISSUING A STATEMENT.
[*323] 1. On March 29, 1971, Cox-Cosmos, Inc., operator of an approximately 4,700 subscriber CATV system at Charlotte, North Carolina, filed a "Petition for Waiver" in which it asks permission to delay commencing cablecasting until it is able to divest itself of the CATV system.
2. In support of its request, Cox-Cosmos, Inc., urges that it is questionable whether the system could bear the additional cost of local origination; that programming costs would be high since there are several competing broadcast stations in the area; that by virtue of its common ownership with Section WSOC-TV, Charlotte, North Carolina, Section 74.1131 of the Commission's Rules will require divestiture of the system by August 10, 1973; that Cox-Cosmos is making efforts to dispose of the system in the near future; that the Commission should not insist on an additional investment in a facility soon to be disposed of; and that a future purchaser should be left maximum choice of equipment to be installed.
3. The Commission has carefully considered the showing made by Cox-Cosmos, Inc., and is of the opinion that the facts recited above establish good cause for a temporary waiver of Section 74.1111 of the Commission's Rules. However, we are unwilling to grant a waiver of indefinite duration since this would defeat the policy underlying Section 74.1111 of the Rules. Accordingly, we will grant Cox-Cosmos an 18 month waiver. If it has not disposed of the system in that time, Cox-Cosmos may request a further waiver but should report on the efforts made to dispose of the system.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, that the "Petition for Waiver" filed March 29, 1971, by Cox-cosmos, Inc., IS GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, That Section 74.1111 of the Commission's Rules IS WAIVED to and including 12 a.m. November 1, [*324] 1972; or until Cox-Cosmos disposes of the Charlotte CATV system, whichever occurs first, with respect to Cox-Cosmos's CATV system at Charlotte, North Carolina.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION, BEN F. WAPLE, Secretary.
DISSENTING OPINION OF COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS JOHNSON
The Commission has ruled that after April 1, 1971 all cable television systems must have the capacity for originating programs from the local communities they serve. 47 C.F.R. 74.1111. That is, they must be physically capable of offering a service going beyond a mere relaying of presently existing over-the-air television stations' programming. They must originate programming themselves.
Most cable systems find that new program offerings are economically profitable. New programs help to sell additional homes on the cable, create greater community support for the company, offer advertising revenue perhaps, and serve as a tangible example of cable's potential for developing an almost unlimited variety of uses of television beyond commercial entertainment purposes -- further encouraging other demands (and revenue) for cable.
Nonetheless, some cable systems have been asking for waivers of our programming origination requirements. Most of these have been for short terms, sometimes awaiting the arrival of equipment on order. See, e.g., Cablevision of Delaware, Inc., F.C.C. 71-460, May 5, 1971; Empire State Cable TV, F.C.C. 71-461, May 5, 1971; and Centre Video Corporation, F.C.C. 71-507, May 11, 1971. I have joined in the Commission's grant of many of these waivers.
In this instance, the cable system in Charlotte, North Carolina, is owned by the owner of WSOC-TV in Charlotte and therefore, under Section 74.1131 of the Commission's rules, 47 C.F.R. 74.1131, must be sold by August 10, 1973. Accordingly, the cable system has requested a waiver until that date -- 2 1/4 years. The Commission has granted a 1 1/2 year waiver.
I would have no objection to a conditional waiver; that is, waiving the origination requirement if, in fact, the system is sold within a period such as 90 days or six months. But this is not such a decision. It is a decision depriving the people of Charlotte of a programming origination service for 1 1/2 years -- with the possibility of further waivers then, either for the present or the new owner. I believe the decision to be unwise and unwarranted, and therefore dissent.