The Cable and Satellite Television Industries

Article excerpt

The Cable and Satellite Television Industries. Patrick R. Parsons and Robert M. Frieden. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997. 370 pp. $24 pbk.

As we approach the end of the twentieth century the most significant challenge to authoring a book about the cable and satellite television industries is the rapid pace of industry change. It's difficult, perhaps nearly impossible, to capture the essence of an industry while change is occurring at broadband speed. The authors of The Cable and Satellite Television Industries make a strong attempt.

Parsons and Frieden, both of Pennsylvania State University, structure their discussion across nine chapters dealing with cable and satellite television history, technology, industry structure, programming and services, business operations, law and regulation, international activities, social issues, and the trend towards television and telephone industry convergence. While organizationally these topics are presented as distinct, early on it becomes apparent that they are interrelated and the authors go to great lengths to refer back to earlier, related discussions and point ahead to relevant material soon to come.

Each chapter has a solid base of research. Activities and trends in distribution, competition, content, and operations are well documented by industry publications and trade articles. Discussion of current law and regulation is supported by extensive review and analysis of federal statutes, case law, law review articles, and FCC documents. And, where appropriate, academic studies are briefly summarized to describe findings on issues such as direct competition, the implications of horizontal and vertical integration, and multichannel television viewing effects.

Although the text is broad in its coverage, the authors delve more deeply into some topics. Chapter 2 presents a most comprehensive and interesting account of the development of cable and satellite television. The evolution of early cable businesses, attendant regulatory issues, and relations with broadcasters are described and characterized in detail far exceeding treatments typically found elsewhere. …