DirecTV Fears New FCC TV Carriage Mandates

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Washington—DirecTV is fighting a proposed regulation from the Federal Communications Commission related to the duplicative carriage of digital TV stations signals in high-definition and standard-definition formats.

In a filing Wednesday, DirecTV told the FCC that the proposal was burdensome, highly likely a violation of the First Amendment, and best resolved by letting satellite subscribers upgrade their set-top box equipment.

“The [FCC] proposes an intrusion on satellite carriers' First Amendment rights that is far from ‘minimal,’ and would be far greater than that imposed on cable operators," DirecTV said in its filing.

A few months ago, the FCC adopted a local market rule that requires DirecTV and Dish Network to carry all stations transmitting in HD if they elected to carry even one station transmitting in HD. However, full implementation is phased in over four years following the Feb. 17, 2009 DTV transition.

In addition to that mandate, the FCC is now proposing a rule under which satellite carriers would be required, in DirecTV's words, to “carry all local broadcast stations in both HD and SD format if the signals of any local station in the same market are carried in both HD and SD.”

DirecTV told the FCC the proposed rule would eat up scarce channel capacity by requiring duplicative transmission of the same TV station signal. Mandates that go beyond single carriage likely violate its editorial rights under the First Amendment, DirecTV said.

DirecTV noted that its customers could view an HD signal on legacy analog TV sets by leasing HD set-top boxes capable of translating an HD signal into SD. That would make dual carriage unnecessary, DirecTV said.

"As both a constitutional matter and a policy matter, the [FCC] should not adopt a dual carriage requirement for satellite carriers," DirecTV said.

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