Digital carriage jockeying precedes vote


The National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association have been working the appropriate channels in Washington to angle for a favorable result when the FCC takes up the issue of mandatory dual carriage of digital and analog broadcast television streams tomorrow. Representatives of NAB/MSTV fired of a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin questioning cable’s sincerity as it promises a "seamless" digital transition. "Cable has created an expectation that its subscribers will continue to receive broadcast signals after the transition," wrote NAB’s Jane Mago and MSTV’s David Donovan in the co-authored letter. "The advice provided in cable’s public relations efforts is plainly inconsistent with the industry’s opposition to the Commission’s [mandatory dual-carriage] proposal." Indeed, looking back at a NCTA FCC filing of 8/16/07, NCTA argued that its only obligation should be to deliver a broadcast station’s HD stream, "and allow customers to lease a box from the operator, if they so desire, to enable them to watch a digital must-carry signal on an analog set." According to Multichannel News, NCTA is said to be offering to provide dual digital/analog carriage for three years past the 2/17/09 switchover date.

TVBR/RBR observation: Will the FCC’s examination of this issue provide clarity, or will it merely be a prelude to the next round of legal maneuvering? It should make for a particularly interesting FCC Open Meeting.