ACA to FCC: Stop making cable TV operators fill out ‘Form 325’ surveys

For the last 53 years, the FCC has been telling cable operators that if they could just fill out their Form 325s, that would be great. (Twentieth Century Fox)

The American Cable Association wants the FCC to dispense with a 53-year-old rule that requires cable TV operators to provide operational information in a yearly survey. 

“The Annual Report of Cable Television Systems,” or “Form 325,” solicits basic operational information from all cable television systems nationwide, including: the operator's name and address; system-wide capacity and frequency information; channel usage; and number of subscribers.

In comments filed with the FCC, the ACA argues that private research companies like “SNL Kagan, Nielsen and Warren Communications” already provide most of the data gleaned from the surveys. 

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“Form 325 was created in 1965, a time when the FCC was trying to establish a factual predicate on whether to bring the nascent cable TV industry within its regulatory ambit,” ACA said in a statement. “A close look at the information collected shows that much of it no longer serves any regulatory purpose, and indeed has not been used by the FCC in many years. The rest can be found from alternative sources (including other regulatory filings), or can be sought as needed on an ad hoc basis.”

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And the information gathering, the cable industry lobbying group said, is time-intensive—“small cable operators generally spend roughly three to five times the number of man-hours that the FCC has estimated the form would require —time that would be much better spent on ensuring that customers receive the best service possible.”

“Although the ACA appreciates the FCC’s interest in understanding industry trends, the agency’s continued collection of data from Form 325 is wasteful and counterproductive,” ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said in the statement. “There is widespread consensus that Form 325 should be eliminated, with no immediate pushback from any parties thus far.”