Florida Dispute Draws Comments


Washington-Cable lobbyists said last week that a Florida digital-TV station has no right to analog-cable carriage when only a handful of viewers have the digital-TV sets needed to receive its signal off-air.

"The purpose of must-carry rules is not to ensure a cable audience for broadcast stations that have no over-the-air viewership," the National Cable Television Association told the Federal Communications Commission in an Aug. 18 filing. "It is to ensure the continued availability to over-the-air viewers of the stations they watch."

WHDT-DT, a start-up digital station in Stuart, asked the FCC to require analog carriage of its digital signal. But the cable industry is strongly opposed, saying WHDT should not be allowed to jump ahead of cable networks that also want maximum audience exposure.

The National Association of Broadcasters urged the FCC to grant WHDT's request, saying cable carriage would have minimal impact on the operator's channel capacity.

The NCTA responded by noting that broadcasters seldom tolerate a government mandate that forces them to offer programming over their objections.