Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin’s proposal to impose new regulations on the cable industry is running afoul of some fellow Republicans, who are questioning his focus on reining in cable companies.
Today, 24 House Republicans plan to deliver a letter to Mr. Martin, chiding him for a “misguided and harmful” proposal that would give the FCC more authority to regulate the cable industry. Mr. Martin’s proposal is “inappropriate at best and contradicts the statute at worst,” according to the letter, which was signed by all but two of 26 Republicans on the House Commerce Committee, including Reps. Joe Barton and Ralph Hall of Texas and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois. They are asking for more information about all cable regulation under consideration at the FCC and more information from Mr. Martin about why he believes the cable industry has grown large enough to trigger new regulations.
“It is a concern that he may be moving away from the light-touch regulation to a much greater role for regulation,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
The letter is the latest salvo in the war between the cable industry, which has worked at achieving broad bipartisan support in Congress, and Mr. Martin, who has suggested a variety of proposals over the past two years to rein in cable companies, including his suggestion that cable operators offer channels on an a-la-carte basis.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Martin said he hadn’t seen the letter and couldn’t comment. In the past, Mr. Martin has said his focus on the cable industry has been in the interests of consumers, who have seen cable prices climb faster than the rate of inflation for several years. He believes customers would save money if they could pick which cable channels they want and pay for them individually.
The controversy over Mr. Martin’s latest cable-regulation proposal comes at an uncomfortable time for the FCC chairman, who is facing criticism from all sides for a separate plan to modernize media-ownership rules by dropping a ban on cross ownership of newspaper and broadcast properties in the largest 20 markets in the country.