The FCC has clarified that a must-carry TV station can demand that a cable operator carry it on its previous analog frequency, but not on its new digital channel.
That is because the FCC, to ensure that broadcasters could maintain continuity of channels in the digital age, decided that a broadcaster would no longer be identified by its radio frequency, which was changing with digital repacking, but instead by its program and system information protocol, or PSIP, which generally corresponds to its previous analog channel.
In dismissing a must-carry complaint by KSQA Topeka against Cox, the FCC said on Friday that the TV station could not demand carriage on Ch. 12, its current DTV channel, but only on 22, its previous analog designation.
"The primary issue before us is whether KSQA has a right to demand carriage on Channel 12 of Cox's cable system when its over-the-air broadcast channel is 12, yet its PSIP number is 22," said the FCC. Cox was carrying another station on ch.12 in September 2011 when KSQA invoked its must-carry option, and didn't want to evict that station, CBS affiliate WIBW, from the channel.
After some back and forth without resolution, KSQA filed the complaint saying it was entitled to either 22 or 12. The FCC's Media Bureau Friday said no dice.
"Under...our rules, KSQA's channel positioning choice may attach only to its Major Channel Number as carried in its PSIP, namely Channel 22, and KSQA is incorrect that it would also have a right to carriage on Channel 12. Therefore its demand that it be carried on Channel 12 must be denied."
KSQA has also filed a request for the FCC to waive the channel 22 designation and substitute Ch. 12. The Media Bureau suggested it was ready to deal with that request and have the issue resolved.
"Although we must dismiss KSQA's Complaint to be carried on Channel 12," the bureau said, "we do so without prejudice to KSQA renewing its carriage demand and, if necessary, filing a renewed carriage complaint after its petition to change or delete its Major Channel Number 22 is resolved. We are hopeful that a renewed complaint will not be necessary because Cox will comply with its carriage obligations in full after this ambiguity in KSQA's digital Major Channel Number is resolved."