Congress yesterday approved legislation setting federal standards for municipal regulation of cable television.
Final action came after the Senate, by voice vote, amended a House bill approved earlier this month that limits the amount of money municipalities can charge cable television operaters and deregulates the rates cable operaters can charge for their services.
The Senate amended the bill to permit newspapers to own cable franchises in cities where they publish.
The House immediately approved the amended bill and sent it to the White House, where President Reagan is expected to sign it.
The fees cities charge cable operators will now be permanently limited to 5 percent of the cable company's gross revenue. And starting two years from now, the bill forbids cities from regulating charges for basic cable service.
Elimination of the ban on newspaper ownership was a provision fashioned by Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, along with Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D.-S.C.). The bill still prohibits ownership of a cable system by owners of local television stations as well as local telephone companies, and gives cities the authority to require educational, public and government access channels.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) added an amendment that eliminated language from the equal employment opportunity portion of the bill, because "the senators felt it implied minorities quotas," a commerce commitee aide said.
The amendment eliminates references to numerical standards, while directing the Federal Communications Commission to review periodically the equal employment records of the nation's cable systems.
If the original House bill had been passed, the FCC would have had to raise its existing standards for hiring women and minorities.
Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) added an amendment that calls for more public comment and a longer period of public notice before a cable franchise is renewed.
The Senate also clarified language in the bill on provisions for penalties associated with receiving satellite television programming signals through the use of rooftop satellite dishes without paying for the programming. Obligations of cable operators to set aside channels for non-video programming, such as data transmission, also were limited.