FCC turns down stay request on cable broadcast viewability


GavelThe NAB and a trio of television companies were denied a stay of FCC ruling allowing the requirement that cable systems provide both an analog and digital version of must-carry television stations to sunset. A case on the same topic is pending in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Joining NAB in the request were Agape Church Inc., London Broadcasting Company and Una Vez Mas LP.

The FCC saw a need for dual carriage in the direct aftermath of the DTV transition and provided for three years of such carriage. However, it does not see the same need now, and elected to allow the rule to sunset as planned.

The Movants, as the FCC referred to the group, believe they will prevail in court and asked that the FCC stay the rule pending that case. This tactic has been rejected by the FCC before, most recently in the case of political advertising information for broadcast television being posted online. And the FCC rejected it again in this case.

The remedy for the many cable households still using analog receivers is the provision of a set-top box of other piece of equipment that will render the broadcast signal passed along by the cable system viewable on their set. The price for the boxes was cited as $2 or less, and in many cases cable companies are said to provide them free of charge.

The FCC is using a transition period during which cable companies can assess their equipment needs to make sure they fulfill this obligation.

The Movants’ arguments centered on technical readings of the rules, one of them based on the requirement that cable companies pass along signals without the need for additional equipment. The FCC simply stated that the language, in its opinion, is ambiguous enough to be read to support either the Movant or FCC position, and said it was free to honor its own interpretation.
A number of other arguments were turned down before the FCC addressed the next big one, that broadcasters would be harmed if not granted the stay. The FCC said there is no evidence demonstrating with certainty that broadcasters will lose viewers and/or advertising revenue. It also rejected public interest arguments.

The Movants also pled that the court case will not be completed by the time the cable transition is completed 12/12/12 – but since the FCC does not believe that cable subscribers will lose access to broadcast television in any event, it rejected that plea as well.