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Turner Broadcasting System v. Federal Communications Commission

The History Of Cable Television

In 1948, cable television was created as a way to access homes too remote for normal signals to reach. By setting antennas up on mountaintops and connecting homes to them, systems were able to provide television service for those who might not otherwise have it. In the late 1950s, these systems found that by offering their subscribers signals from other areas, rather than just local ones, they increased interest in their service. By 1962 850,000 subscribers were being served by about 800 systems.

Not surprisingly, local television stations viewed these services as competition. In response, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expanded its area of responsibility to include these systems and regulated their ability to access these distant signals. With the growth of satellite technology and increasing efforts by the cable industry, regulations throughout the 1970s lessened. The first pay network, Home Box Office (HBO) along with the emergence of a local television station that began using the new technology, WTBS, turned the home entertainment industry upside down. By the end of the 1970s nearly 15 million homes subscribed to cable television.

The 1984 Cable Act deregulated the cable industry, allowing business to begin to experiment with newer technologies and programming. According to the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), the industry spent an unprecedented $15 million "on program development," the "largest private construction project since World War II." In the following decade, cable networks began to market themselves to small focus group. For instance, networks would show programs that they thought would be interesting to women, or would only broadcast music-oriented shows or only sports. By 1998 seven in ten households who had televisions, subscribed to cable.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Turner Broadcasting System v. Federal Communications Commission - The History Of Cable Television, Regulation Begins, Back To District Court