FCC Rejects Pax's DTV Carriage Plan

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For the second time this year, federal regulators have rejected a double dose of cable system must-carry proposed by Paxson Communications Corp., owner of 69 U.S. television stations.

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously rejected a complaint filed by Paxson, which wanted the FCC to require Chicago cable operators to carry six off-air programming streams — one in analog and five in digital.

The FCC's Cable Services Bureau rejected Paxson's plan in January. The decision came after the agency determined earlier that month that without more data on cable-system channel capacity, a dual must-carry requirement was susceptible to attack under the First Amendment.

While lauding Paxson for initiating digital-TV service, the FCC said it had "no basis for concluding that the [1992 Cable Act] requires dual carriage."

In January, the FCC barred stations that transmitted both an analog and a digital signal from electing must-carry for the digital signal. But TV stations broadcasting solely in digital could demand cable carriage in either format.

Paxson proposed that cable operators in the Chicago market be allowed to drop his analog station, WCPX, but required to carry one of its six digital signals. One stream would be downconverted to analog and available to all cable subscribers; the other five would be seen only in households with a digital set-top.

AT&T Broadband, Chicago's dominant MSO, opposed Paxson's carriage plan.

The FCC told Paxson that it was free to submit a new complaint if the FCC concluded at some point that federal cable law requires dual carriage.

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