Bell Atlantic gets OK to transmit TV shows

March 18, 1995|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer The New York Times News Service contributed to this article.

U.S. District Judge Harold J. Greene gave permission to Bell Atlantic Corp. yesterday to transmit TV programs virtually anywhere in the country -- a move that will let the telephone company extend the reach and cut the costs of its video ventures.

Judge Greene's ruling in Washington came as a waiver to the "modified final judgment" (MFJ) that has been the de facto charter for the U.S. telecommunications industry since it set the rules for the breakup of the Bell system in 1984.

The MFJ, drafted at a time when sending video over phone lines would have been seen as science fiction, generally prohibited regional Bell companies from transmitting signals across long-distance lines. Thus, the waiver was seen as a critical step toward allowing Bell Atlantic to effectively compete with cable television networks and program producers.

Bell Atlantic spokesman Jay Grossman said that under the waiver, Bell Atlantic will be allowed to deliver TV programs nationwide by satellite -- a move that will let its programming arm sell its entertainment packages to cable or video dial tone networks outside its six-state Mid-Atlantic region.

The ruling will also let Bell Atlantic set up video networks in its region that match cable company franchise boundaries even when those franchises cross a long-distance boundary lines.

Mr. Grossman said the ruling will let the phone company transmit all of its programming out of a single facility.

Tom Brennan, senior consultant for TeleChoice Inc. in Verona, N.J., said that is an important consideration as Bell Atlantic goes head-to-head with its rivals. "They'll be able to be more price-competitive," he said.

Bell Atlantic still must win approval from the Federal Communications Commission on a market-by-market basis to upgrade its cable systems to carry video signals.

The company has filed for permission to do that in six of its its major markets, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. It has already won FCC approval in two smaller markets, Fairfax County, Va., and Dover Township, N.J.

Because Judge Greene oversees all seven of the regional Bell companies, yesterday's ruling is expected to extend soon to the other Bells.

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