Cable Making Strong Case on Must-Carry

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Washington -- Broadcasters will need to be more aggressive
in convincing lawmakers that cable systems should be required to carry digital-broadcast
stations, as well as analog stations, one Democratic and one Republican aide for the House
Commerce Committee said last Tuesday.

Andy Levin and Justin Lilley -- the attorneys for the
committee's minority and majority members, respectively -- said the cable industry
had persuasively articulated why doing so would be too much of a burden. They were
speaking at a panel discussion organized by the Association for Maximum Service Television
Inc.

"The cable industry has done an effective job of
posing the risks, making members aware of what the costs might be [of digital
must-carry]," said Lilley, the Republican counsel specializing in telecommunications.

Plus, broadcasters must realize that when Congress
initially considered the 1992 Cable Act and the must-carry issue, lawmakers were most
concerned about what they considered to be excessively high cable rates. These days,
Lilley said, that issue is less compelling.

"The cable industry has poised itself as a citizen.
The case is harder to make," Lilley added.

Levin, the Democratic telecommunications counsel, agreed,
saying, "For a lot of members, [they believe that] it is not fair to make cable
companies carry two 6-megahertz channels instead of just one."

Levin added that it is "incumbent" on
broadcasters that believe that must-carry will be crucial to digital television's
success to convince lawmakers that they are correct.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a
rulemaking to address the issue, as well as other sideline matters, including the tier of
service that cable companies could put digital signals on, along with channel positioning.

States News Service

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