Democrat Jonathan Adelstein, sworn in Tuesday as a member of the Federal Communications Commission, is positioned to cast the tie-breaking vote on at least one important cable issue brewing for years.
Since July 2001, the FCC has operated with four commissioners, three of them Republicans. But divisions within the GOP majority have created deadlocks on several policy fronts, including digital television.
One issue still to be decided is whether cable operators after the transition have to carry TV stations' multiple digital-broadcast services, or just single channels, as current policy dictates. In January 2001, FCC chairman Michael Powell voted against a multiple-channel-carriage mandate.
Many expect Adelstein to provide the third vote in support of a multiple-channel-carriage regime. But as chairman, Powell has the prerogative to bottle up issues if he is not in the majority.
According to a senior FCC official, Powell is willing to release a digital-TV order that includes a multiple-carriage mandate to which he is opposed.