Cable: Reject New Must-Carry Bids

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Cable operators and programmers have a message for broadcasters seeking expanded carriage rights on cable systems: Give it up.

From Comcast Corp. to The Weather Channel, the cable industry is asking the Federal Communications Commission to ignore broadcasters' second attempt to gain mandatory carriage of their analog and digital signals during the digital-TV transition and carriage of their multiple digital services after it.

In comments last Thursday, Comcast told the FCC that broadcasters’ attempt to revive various must-carry issues were "repetitious and should be summarily dismissed."

The FCC rejected expanded must-carry in 2001 and did so again in February.

Chairman Kevin Martin voted as a commissioner to impose multicast must-carry, giving broadcasters hope that they might someday prevail over cable with Martin now running the agency. And Democrats Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein indicated that they might be willing to embrace multicast must-carry if it is connected to concrete public-interest obligations for digital-TV stations.

In April, the independent affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC and stations owned by ABC and NBC filed petitions for reconsideration with the FCC. A few weeks earlier, Paxson Communications Corp. filed an appeal in federal court. The court case is unlikely to advance until the commission acts on the reconsideration requests.

NBC is hoping that multicast must-carry will provide universal reach for its NBC Weather Plus service, a competitive threat to TWC’s hyperlocal Weatherscan cable service.

In its FCC comments, TWC said that because NBC is capable of negotiating cable carriage for Weather Plus, the broadcaster does not need government assistance.

"The imposition of a regulatory requirement that every cable system carry every multicast signal of every broadcast station in its market would distort the marketplace and subject TWC and Weatherscan to unfair and discriminatory competitive conditions," TWC told the agency.

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