One of the key elements of the transition to digital broadcast television was to assure that no consumers were left behind due to the lack of a digital receiver. Another was an exemption from the requirement that MVPDs pass along non-degraded high-definition broadcast signals granted to small systems. The rules expire this summer, and the FCC is seeking comment as to whether or not they need to be extended.
The FCC is waiting for the matter, officially in the books as a Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Declaratory Order, to be published in the Federal Register. Once that happens, it will establish a 25-day deadline for comments, with 10 additional days provided for reply comments.
The current rules evaporate 6/12/12 unless extended.
The FCC explained, “…we seek comment on whether to extend the ‘viewability’ rule for three more years to ensure that all cable subscribers, including those with analog equipment, continue to have access to must carry television signals. Given the apparent widespread reliance of small cable operators on the HD exemption, we propose to extend it for an additional three years, but ask whether this should be the final extension. We note that both rule and exemption would have expired on February 17, 2012 if the DTV transition had not been delayed by Congress. The Commission is therefore concurrently issuing a Declaratory Order clarifying that both the viewability rule and the HD Carriage Exemption will sunset on June 12, 2012, absent Commission action to extend them.”
The FCC noted that as far as the carriage rules are concerned, it hasn’t received any complaints and therefore is surmising that the rules have not been onerous for MVPDs to comply with. It also said it is predisposed to continue the small-system HD exemption for three more years.
The full request for comment can be read here.
RBR-TVBR observation: Here’s a data point: This household uses two television sets. One is analog, the other digital, they both work just fine and we have no need or desire to replace the analog set. We suspect that there are many millions of others just like us, and would therefore like to see at least three more years of dual analog/digital carriage by MVPDs.