FCC Shoots Down Paxson's 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 sought FCC approval 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 on the
heels of the commission's tentative conclusion that month that a dual must-carry
requirement, without more data on cable-system channel capacity, 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 were beaming both analog and digital
signals from electing must-carry for the digital signal. But TV stations
broadcasting solely in digital could demand cable carriage, either in analog or
digital.

Paxson proposed allowing cable operators in Chicago to drop his analog
station, WCPX, but carry its six digital steams. One stream would be
downconverted to analog and available to all cable subscribers, while the other
five in digital would be seen by cable subscribers with digital set-tops.
AT&T Broadband, Chicago's dominant MSO, opposed Paxson's carriage plan.

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

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