The FCC is being run more like a political action committee than a govt agency, NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow said in a conference call with reporters Wed. The NCTA chief acknowledged that as a trade assoc head, he’s biased… but added that "objectively, if one looks at the Commission’s agenda, one would have to conclude overwhelmingly that the issues that have been teed up… have been designed to hurt the cable industry." The FCC responded by issuing a statement from a spokesperson: "Our focus is not on the welfare of a particular industry but the welfare of consumers and ensuring they receive the benefits of competition in the form of lower prices, more choice and better services," the statement read, saying that cable prices have increased 93% from ’95 to ’05. "The cable industry needs more competition, and we will continue to act to bring more competition and its benefits to consumers." Calling the FCC "broken," McSlarrow likened the agency to a P.A.C. "When I see leaks to the press, when I see an effort to time the release of documents or delay them or talk about them without anyone actually having seen them so you can’t actually refute them… that’s the ways guys do it in politics," he said. "All of that’s fair when you’re in a campaign environment, but this isn’t a campaign environment." While McSlarrow offered up several harsh words for the FCC, he stopped short of saying FCC chmn Kevin Martin has a personal vendetta against cable. He did, however, suggest that Martin has created an agenda aimed at "pressuring" the industry to submit to a la carte. "Some of these items may or may not have been proposed even if we had just succumbed at the beginning and said ‘Yeah, we’ll implement a la carte,’ but I doubt it. I rather expect that if that had actually happened, I probably could have gone sailing," McSlarrow quipped. The NCTA head said he didn’t think Martin was violating the law or abusing his power but said he would not conduct himself in the same manner if he was heading the agency. He ticked off a list of grievances: sunshine limitations are applied "disparately," delays in rendering decisions (i.e., set-top waiver requests), mergers treated differently (Adelphia merger vs AT&T), using reports to promote "particular agendas." As for whether data was used properly for the so-called 70/70 test, "how would we know," he asked, calling on the FCC to make the report available for public inspection. Wed’s conference call was prompted by a NY Times interview with Martin. The chmn revealed that a yet-released FCC video competition report finds that cable has penetration of more than 70% of the homes passed by cable—which would trigger a provision allowing the FCC to promulgate additional rules to "provide diversity of information sources."

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