At its Tues meeting, the FCC also voted to extend program access rules until Oct, 2012, forcing cable ops to sell their own satellite-delivered cable nets to multichannel rivals. The order has not been released yet, but NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow said he believes it pared back the discovery procedure for those who file complaints. Controversy stemmed from a provision allowing those who file program access complaints to gain access to the contracts between the cable-affiliated programmer and any distributor. The decision “made it clear that the FCC has a role in terms of the relevance of documents in a carriage dispute,” McSlarrow said. However, EchoStar commended the FCC’s action, saying it puts “some teeth” into the discovery process. The agency also voted to launch a notice of proposed rulemaking on program tying arrangements (ie, forcing video providers to buy a channel to carry another more desirable channel). The NPRM seeks comment on whether it’s appropriate to preclude these tying arrangements and to instead require all programming services to be offered on a stand-alone basis to all MVPDs. The tying NPRM excited Martin’s al la carte buddy Sen John McCain (R-AZ), saying it hoped it would lead to giving consumers more control over their viewing options. “Consumers should not have to pay for channels they find distasteful or they do not watch,” McCain said. One other issue the FCC’s examining is whether program access rules should be extended to terrestrially delivered nets, such as Comcast Sports Net Philly.

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