Production

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
8

Cable television is a subscription service that first appeared in the United States in the 1940s to serve areas where broadcast television signals could not be received.[1919] The cable television industry expanded slowly until the 1970s, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a deregulatory philosophy to allow cable services to offer a greater number of channels and to foster program diversity.[1920] Cable subscriptions also increased when satellites were used by cable programming networks to distribute programming to local cable operators across the country.[1921] As a result of these developments, cable operators were able to offer programming from a wide variety of sources.

Today there are over sixty-five hundred cable television systems in the United States serving over forty million subscribing households.[1922] Cable television is currently available to seventy percent of the eighty-five million television households in the country.[1923]

Programs offered by cable companies are distributed to subscribers through a closed circuit wire system.[1924] The cable wire is strung along utility poles or buried in an underground conduit and enters the subscriber's home in the same way as a telephone line.[1925] This differs from broadcast television which transmits its signals through the airwaves to anyone in the vicinity with a television.[1926]

While broadcast television stations are required to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cable systems are not. They operate based on a contractual agreement or franchise with a state or local government body.[1927] The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984[1928] establishes a national policy regarding the areas of the cable television industry which are subject to federal, state and local regulation.[1929]

In addition to cable, there are several other types of television services including Satellite Master Antenna Television (SMATV), Over-the-Air Subscription Television (STV), Backyard Satellite Receiving Dishes (TVRO) and Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS).[1930]

SMATV signals are received by a large antenna and delivered to individuals in multiple unit dwellings by wire. The service is usually provided without charge to occupants of apartment buildings and to hotel and motel guests.[1931] STV signals are transmitted over the airwaves in a scrambled mode by a broadcast station. Viewers in the service area who desire the programming must rent a decoding device for their televisions.[1932] The FCC has preempted most state and local regulation of the SMATV and STV services.[1933] Backyard satellite receiving dishes (TVROs) are large antenna discs used by individuals to receive satellite transmitted programming. Often these discs are used to intercept programming that is transmitted via satellite from the cable programmers to the local cable operators.[1934] MDS signals provide one to eight channels of programming to subscribers.[1935] Subscribers must have a special antenna and signal to receive and convert the transmitted signal into a frequency compatible with a standard television.[1936] MDS is used most commonly in multiple unit dwellings and to a lesser extent in single family residences.[1937]

Individual local cable operators control what programming will be offered on their systems.[1938] One of the basic attributes of cable television is "narrowcasting" or presenting programming designed for a particular audience, such as children's programs, educational programs, "adults only" programs, and foreign language programs.[1939] Most cable systems offer a basic service package consisting of local broadcast channels and other nationally or regionally distributed channels such as Cable News Network (CNN), Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and the sports channel (ESPN).[1940] Cable systems usually offer at least one of the "pay television" channels such as Home Box Office (HBO), Cinemax, Showtime or the Disney Channel. These channels usually carry unedited movies without commercial interruption and are sold to subscribers on a per channel or per program basis.[1941] The subscriber pays a monthly fee for the basic service and an additional fee for the "pay television" channels.[1942]

Notes

  1. Los Angeles Hearing, Vol. I, Brenda Fox, p. 283.
  2. Id.
  3. Id.
  4. Letter from James P. Mooney, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Cable Television Association to Henry E. Hudson, Chairman, Attorney General's Commission on Pornography (May 2, 1986).
  5. Los Angeles Hearing, Vol. I, Brenda Fox, p. 306-R.
  6. Id., pp. 306-N-306-0.
  7. Id., pp. 306-8.
  8. Id., p. 282,
  9. Id.
  10. 47 U.S.C. S521 et seq.
  11. Los Angeles Hearing, Vol. I, Brenda Fox, pp. 306-0-306-P. See, The discussion of FCC regulatory responsibilities in the Recommendations for Law Enforcement Agencies.
  12. Id., pp. 306S-306U.
  13. Id., pp. 306S-306T.
  14. Id., p. 306T.
  15. Id.
  16. Id., p. 306U.
  17. Id., p. 306-T.
  18. Id., p. 306-T-306-U.
  19. Id., p. 306-U.
  20. Id., p. 291. The exception to this rule occurs when, under the terms of the cable franchise agreement, cable operators are required to indiscriminantly lease channels to the public.
  21. Id., pp. 284-85.
  22. Id., pp. 283-84.
  23. Id., p. 284.
  24. Id., p. 286.