Does Cable TV Need More Regulation?

December 7, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus


The dream of a “wired nation” linked by cable television is edging ever closer to reality. In the past decade alone, the number of cable TV systems more than doubled, and the number of cable subscribers nearly tripled. Industry analysts say prospects are bright for significant additional growth. Nonetheless, cable operators are in no mood for celebrating. For the second consecutive year, they are preparing to fight efforts in Congress to bring cable systems under more stringent regulation. And all the while, rival technologies that could impede cable TV expansion loom larger on the horizon.

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Few American industries fared better during the booming 1980s than cable television. Long viewed as a poor relation of broadcast television, cable closed the decade in a position of near-parity with its rival.

The figures speak for themselves. According to the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), the industry's trade group, cable systems nationwide increased from 4,225 in 1980 to 9,050 in 1989. Over the same period, subscribers to basic cable service rose from 17.7 million to 52.6 million, while the proportion of American households receiving basic cable increased from 22.6 percent in 1980 to 57.1 percent in 1989.

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Telecommunications and Wireless Technologies