Cable Nets Attack Dual Must Carry

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Washington—Six cable programming companies filed a brief Wednesday urging a federal appeals court to overturn Federal Communications Commission mandates related to cable operator carriage of digital TV station signals.

The cable networks said that they run the risk of being dropped from crowded cable systems because the FCC gave preferential treatment to local TV stations in violation of the First Amendment and a federal administrative law statute.

The brief attacked the FCC's decision to require cable carriage of local TV signals in both analog and digital unless the cable systems had converted to all-digital transmission. Because so few cable systems have gone digital, the FCC's order is tantamount to a dual-carriage requirement.

“By requiring operators to deliver the identical broadcast station twice to the same household ...the [FCC's order] abridges the First Amendment rights of programmers,” the cable networks said in a brief filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The rules, which take effect on Feb. 18, 2009, granted dual carriage status only to stations that demand cable carriage, not to stations that negotiate for it.

Filing the brief were C-SPAN, Discovery Communications, The Weather Channel, TV ONE, A&E Television Networks, and Scripps Networks. All had previously announced their intention to take the FCC to court.

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