Cable Execs Hit FCC on Must-Carry

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WASHINGTON - Senior executives from 25 cable networks planto blanket the Federal Communications Commission next week in an effort to blunt anyattempt by the agency to force cable operators to carry both analog- and digital-TVsignals.

National Cable Television Association president RobertSachs made the announcement in a speech here that spelled out in elaborate detail thecable industry's opposition to a double dose of mandatory carriage, which could forcechannel-locked cable systems to bump established cable networks.

"To give you an idea about the seriousness of theconcerns our industry has about digital must-carry, this will be the first time so large agroup of cable operators has ever visited the FCC," Sachs said, adding that 70 cablenetworks in all will be represented at the Nov. 3 commission sessions.

In the speech, Sachs said FCC imposition of digitalmust-carry would be an inefficient, burdensome and unconstitutional intervention bygovernment into the programming-distribution market that was never intended by Congress.

"Government-mandated must-carry is not the answer tocreating marketplace demand for digital TV," he added.

He urged broadcasters to resolve their own internal debateabout technical standards and digital-TV-set makers to lower their prices to affordablelevels.

FCC officials have promised to issue digital must-carryrules by the end of the year. Agency sources said chairman William Kennard remainsskeptical that the broadcast industry has made the legal and business case for mandatorycarriage.

National Association of Broadcasters spokesman DennisWharton said digital must-carry was imperative if TV stations are going to transition outof the analog format.

"For the digital-TV rollout to succeed, the FCC mustadopt a strong pro-consumer digital must-carry rule for cable. This FCC must decidewhether it is for the gatekeeper or the consumers," Wharton said.

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