The cable industry may have found its most lethal weapon yet against a policy to expand cable carriage of local TV stations: opposition from broadcasters themselves.
The vast majority of TV stations want a federal rule to require cable systems to carry their multiple digital-programming services in an expansion of current analog must-carry rules that limit carriage to one service.
But at least one TV-station group has other ideas.
Spanish broadcaster Entravision Holdings Inc. is a holdout from the multicast must-carry consensus, telling the Federal Communications Commission that broadening the carriage rules for digital TV could cause the courts to bring down all must-carry rules. That would greatly harm Entravision stations, which need bare-bones must-carry rights to get on cable systems.
Cable programmers are beginning to replay Entravision's message at the FCC. In a March 16 filing, A&E Television Networks and Court TV cited Entravision's analysis as yet another -- and telling -- rationale for limiting TV stations to just one programming stream on cable.
"As independent broadcaster Entravision noted, broadcasters and others who advocate multicast-carriage requirements may place the entire must-carry rationale at risk," the cable networks said. "By trying to push the envelope too far, such advocacy could undermine the narrow support for existing must-carry rules."
The Supreme Court barely endorsed analog must-carry in 1997 -- a point A&E and Court TV also made to the FCC in arguing that expanding the rules could be legally dangerous.
Entravision isn't backing down: Last week, chairman and CEO Walter Ulloa made the rounds at the FCC, including visits with agency chairman Michael Powell, the other four commissioners and some of their legal assistants.