Policy

Cable Coup: TV Group Against Forced Multicast

3/01/2004 10:28 AM Eastern

In a propaganda coup for cable, a major broadcaster is urging the Federal Communications Commission to resist calls that would force cable operators to carry all free programming streams provided by digital-TV stations.

Over cable's objections, the National Association of Broadcasters has been pushing the Federal Communications Commission for at least six years to impose a multicast must-carry rule, saying that the rule is vital to the future of localism and free TV.

Cable wants the rule limited to carriage of just a single programming service after the giveback of analog spectrum.

In a March 1 filing, Entravision Holdings LLC told the FCC a multicast mandate could have devastating consequences because the Spanish-language TV group expects the cable industry to ask the courts to hold that no form of must-carry -- single or multiple -- is consistent with the First Amendment today.

"Independent stations that have always depended upon mandatory carriage to reach their target audiences will be devastated by the loss of their must-carry rights," Entravision said. "The stakes are simply too high for the FCC to push the constitutional limits of must-carry by adopting a multicast requirement at this time."

Based in Santa Monica, Calif., Entravision owns 42 stations with programming provided by Univision Communications Inc. Entravision -- which is nearly one-third owned by Univision -- is totally dependent upon must-carry.

Without must-carry, Entravision told the FCC it would lose guaranteed access to its cable viewers. But network affiliates in the market -- which generally rely on retransmission consent -- would not suffer the same fate because cable would bargain to carry them. In a world without must -carry, the network affiliates would be in position to take local viewers from Entravision.

"Multicasting is not the key to a successful DTV transition and the preservation of free, over-the-air broadcast television," Entravision said.

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