FCC Tentatively Grants HD Exemption Sought By ACA

Commission Says it Remains in Public Interest

The FCC has proposed granting the American Cable Association's request for three-year extension of smaller cable operators' exemption from having to carry TV stations in high definition under the no "material degradation" mandate.

The exemption was to have expired June 12, 2015.

"[W]e tentatively conclude that the public interest would be served by extending the HD carriage exemption for three years, or until June 12, 2018," the FCC said in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released Thursday (March 12).

In 2008, the FCC exempted smaller operators from the FCC requirement that cable operators deliver TV station signals in HD if they are delivered in HD over the air. In 2012, at the behest of ACA, the FCC extended that exemption for three more years.

Exempt are systems with 552 MHz or less channel capacity, or with fewer than 2,500 or fewer subs and aren't affiliated with a cable operator serving more than 10% of all MVPD subs.

The National Association of Broadcasters had wanted the FCC to restrict the exemption by "eliminating its application tosystems that carry any signal in HD."

"[T]e Commission reasoned that the exemption had already been crafted narrowly to excuse only a limited number of systems with certain capacity constraints or low subscribership, and that a small system’s ability to offer some HD service did not necessarily render that system capable of offering additional HD service," the FCC said.

ACA also wanted the FCC to hold that analog-only systems with "no digital video bandwidth" are permanently exempt from the requirement on the grounds that they can't do it.

The FCC sought comment on whether that should be the case.