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Comcast Fights the Cap

We got word late Wednesday that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is seeking to overturn a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order that prohibits cable operators from owning more than 30 percent of the pay-TV universe.

In a 3 to 2 vote last December, the FCC adopted the cap, holding that such a measure is necessary in order to reduce the power an MSO has over the fate of budding programmers seeking cable carriage. (See FCC Caps Cable .) FCC Commissioners Robert McDowell and Deborah Taylor Tate both dissented, with McDowell predicting that the Order would be overturned by the court.

Comcast filed documents today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The MSO is arguing, in part, that the court strike down the Order on the grounds that it violates First Amendment rights and the Communications Act of 1934.

Comcast, which is roughly 3 percent under the cap, is the only MSO that comes remotely close to it. As it stands, the FCC order, for example, would prevent Comcast from buying all of Charter Communications Inc. , but not Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC).

Also, don't forget those "informal inquiries" about potential investment and deals Charter chairman Paul Allen has received of late. At least one analyst theorized that Comcast might be interested in some specific Charter systems, but not all of them. (See Charter Gets Nibbles.)

Not that Comcast's appeal might suggest the MSO is on the prowl for possible acquisitions or anything like that...

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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