News

Cable to FCC: Reject New Must-Carry Bids

6/03/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Washington— Cable operators and programmers have a message for broadcasters seeking expanded-carriage rights on cable systems: Give it up.

From Comcast Corp. to The Weather Channel, the cable industry is asking the Federal Communications Commission to ignore broadcasters’ second attempt to gain mandatory carriage of their analog and digital signals during the DTV transition and carriage of their multiple digital services afterwards.

In comments it issued on May 26, Comcast told the FCC that broadcasters’ attempts to revive various must-carry issues were “repetitious and should be summarily dismissed.”

PRIOR REJECTIONS

The FCC rejected expanded must-carry rights in 2001 and did so again in February.

As a commissioner, FCC chairman Kevin Martin voted to impose multicast must-carry, giving broadcasters hope they might someday prevail over cable with Martin now running the agency. Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein indicated they might be willing to embrace multicast must-carry if it is connected to concrete public-interest obligations for DTV stations.

In April, the independent affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as owned-and-operated ABC and NBC stations, filed petitions for reconsideration with the FCC. A few weeks earlier, Paxson Communications Corp. filed an appeal in federal court. The court case is unlikely to advance until the FCC acts on the reconsideration requests.

NBC hopes multicast must-carry would provide universal reach for its Weather Plus service, a competitive threat to TWC’s Weatherscan Local service.

In its FCC comments, TWC said because NBC is capable of negotiating cable carriage for Weather Plus, the broadcaster does not need government assistance.

“The imposition of a regulatory requirement that every cable system carry every multicast signal of every broadcast station in its market would distort the marketplace, and subject The Weather Channel and Weatherscan to unfair and discriminatory competitive conditions,” TWC told the FCC.

March