The American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. yesterday called on the Federal Communications Commission to stop the virtually unbridled retransmission of certain local television systems in other cities, or to force those cable systems to pay considerably more the rights to use those stations' signals.
ABC is the latest of several interested parties that have asked for a redefinition of existing regulations over satellite distributors of so-called "super stations" -- local stations that are beamed to cable operators in many other cities.
At issue is the question of whether or not the satellite companies that distribute the signal of these local stations to the rest of the nation are actually "common carriers," under FCC definition.
Common carriers, like the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., are classified as such because they have no control over "the production of, the writing of, the selection of, or otherwise influencing the content of any information to be transmitted" over their facilities.
The concept was initiated as a means of preserving freedom of speech by protecting broadcasters from being at the mercy of companies, like the telephone company, which control the mechanical aspects of broadcasting.
But at the same time, the common carrier status also carried with it a protection for the carrier. It allowed the carrier to retransmit broadcasts without having to pay fees to the broadcaster.
In this proceeding, ABC contends that ASN Inc., a satellite company, should not be considered a common carrier because it has specifically chosen three television stations to retransmit to its cable customers.