Corn Growers Back Multicasting Mandate


There’s a new group giving federal regulators an earful on the digital-television transition: corn growers.

The American Corn Growers Association is supporting a proposal that would require cable systems to carry digital stations’ multiple programming services. Federal Communications Commission rules currently require carriage of just one programming stream, and that’s where the cable industry wants to keep it.

A multicasting mandate would help farmers and ranchers to obtain access to vital information, such as that provided by Weather Plus Network, the ACGA said in a Nov. 8 meeting with FCC member Jonathan Adelstein and one of his aides.

In referencing Weather Plus, the ACGA did not disclose in the FCC filing that the network was recently launched by NBC Universal, a powerful TV-network and broadcast-station owner with equally powerful independent affiliates that have largely relied on negotiations -- and not mandatory carriage -- to obtain cable and satellite carriage of their programming services.

Nevertheless, the ACGA said, “Stations owned by smaller groups or licensed to smaller markets may not be successful in negotiating such agreements.”

In the Adelstein meeting, the ACGA was joined by other agriculture groups and labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers of America.

Adelstein is from Rapid City, S.D., and he has a keen interest in rural issues. He has said that before the FCC approves a multicast mandate, it should have a clear idea of what the channels will be used for.

The groups also voiced opposition to an FCC staff plan that would end the broadcasters’ digital TV transition Dec. 31, 2008. They argued that the abrupt termination of analog TV would injure rural Americans “who lack access to cable-television service” and rely on broadcasting “as a critical source of news, weather and other information that is necessary in the pursuit of their livelihoods.”