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Strong cable bill faces Bush veto.

House and Senate Conferees completed work on cable legislation last week on a bill that would regulate basic rates and spur competition to combat cable's monopolistic $20 billion dollar industry. The version approved by the conference committee contains stricter rate regulation provisions than what was contained in either house's original version. The President has said he would veto the legislation.

With clockwork timing, the cable industry also launched a misleading multimillion dollar media campaign last week in the hope of convincing American consumers that the bill would raise, not lower, cable subscription rates. Along with full-page ads and a blitz of television commercials, consumers received flyers and ready-to-mail postcards to send to their House and Senate Representatives.

In a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday, Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), and Congressmen Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) disputed claims made by the cable industry.

"Consumers across America should be outraged at the cable 1obby's scare tactics. And when they see these ads and telegrams, they should consider the source

It's bought and paid for by the same cable monopolies that have been raising rates, year after year, at three times the inflation rate," Cooper told the attendees.

The legislation approved by the conference committee requires the Federal Communications Commission to set a price for basic cable television service. The commission would have to set its price based on several factors, including comparing the price of basic cable service in areas where there is competition. That could result in cable fees dropping by as much as 30 percent.

The bill also contains the controversial "retransmission consent" provision, requiring cable and broadcasters to come to agreement regarding the use of over-the-air signals. The cable industry has made this provision a point of contention, saying any costs will be passed on to the consumer.

Conference committee staff will now issue a report indicating changes made in the bill and explaining each side's actions. The committee report then goes to both chambers for approval, and the final product is sent to the White House for action by the President.

It is imperative that local elected officials contact their House and Senate Representatives this week in support of this cable legislation..Although the bill was passed by a wide margin in both Houses, cable's negative media campaign will have an impact. Pressure must be kept up in order to maintain a veto majority.

For a draft letter and talking points on this issue, call Anna Ferrera in the Center for Policy and Federal Relations at (202) 626-3020.
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Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 14, 1992
Words:427
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