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Cable ownership caps overturned

Thu, 03/01/2001 - 7:00pm
Karen Kessler-Tanaka

AT&Tand AOL Time Warner are enjoying a victory today. A U.S. appeals court has overturned federal limits on the number of subscribers that a cable company can serve, Reuters reports.

The two companies, AT&T in particular, have long wanted the cable subscriber caps raised and have petitioned the FCC to review the numbers. The companies have argued that the 30 percent subscriber cap, as well as the edict that no more than 40 percent of their channels can be filled with their affiliates' programming, infringe on first amendment rights.

"Concluding that the FCC has not met its burden under the First Amendment and, in part, lacks statutory authority for its actions, we remand for further consideration of both limits," Reuters reports the unanimous three-judge panel as saying in reversing the rules and sending them back to the FCC for revising.

This turn of events could effect AT&T's actions in regard to the proposed Liberty Media spin off and the registration of its 25 percent Time Warner Entertainment stake for sale. Both moves are in response to complying with the ownership caps. AT&T has been over the current FCC mandated subscriber limit since its purchase of MediaOne Group last year.

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