FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was forced to admit defeat Tuesday when it became apparent that even his fellow Republican commissioners would not support his efforts to tighten regulations on the cable industry. The principal issue centered around a report prepared by FCC staff members that concluded that 70 percent of households are now able to connect to cable systems and at least 70 percent of those are subscribers. Such a state of affairs would have triggered a rule passed by Congress in 1984 that would have permitted the FCC greater authority to regulate the cable industry. But the industry claimed that the report was misleading, insisting that it was losing subscribers to competing satellite, telephone, and Internet services -- not gaining them. And Democratic Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told the Los Angeles Times, "There was an attempt to cook the books on this report." In the end, Martin acknowledged that the study may not be precise enough to trigger his proposed regulations. The commission did pass a new regulation Tuesday that will require cable companies to provide complete data on how many subscribers they have. The Tuesday meeting of the commission was delayed several times as items pertaining to the cable industry that Martin had sought to put to a vote were dropped from the commission's agenda. Analysts said that the resounding defeat will increase Martin's difficulties in pushing through other pet proposals, including one that would allow media companies to own a broadcast station as well as a newspaper in the top 20 markets.
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