Cable, NAB at Odds on DTV Simulcasting

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TV stations across the country should be required to use their digital
spectrum to simulcast programming airing on their analog signals, the National
Cable & Telecommunications Association said Tuesday in a Federal
Communications Commission filing.

Broadcasters, including The Walt Disney Co., said simulcasting was
unnecessary and should be dropped from the rules.

The NCTA said that if simulcasting were optional, TV stations would have
analog and digital programming streams with different content, which would
frustrate the FCC's ability to reclaim the analog spectrum without angering
consumers used to the variety.

"Removing the simulcasting requirement would provide broadcasters with an
additional program stream -- and every incentive to maintain that separate
service indefinitely," the NCTA said. "It would become increasingly difficult to
reclaim the second channel."

TV stations are required to return the analog channel once 85 percent of TV
households in a market have digital receivers. Starting April 1, digital-TV
stations were to simulcast 50 percent of analog channels' programming, leading
to 100 percent in April 2005.

The National Association of Broadcasters said the simulcast mandate should be
repealed because it was premised on the notion that broadcasters would air their
high-quality programming only in digital and "analog viewers would be
disenfranchised."

The NAB said such a scenario failed to emerge, which should cause the FCC to
abandon simulcasting "as unnecessary at this time. It can be revisited closer to
the end of transition."

Disney argued that a simulcasting requirement would hinder its ability "to
develop innovative and creative uses of the digital spectrum that ultimately
could drive consumer demand for digital television and speed the
transition."

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