Martin Pulls Cable-Carriage Item

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Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin Thursday scrapped his plan to vote on a controversial cable-carriage proposal at the agency’s July 14 public meeting.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Inc. slammed the proposal as de facto dual must-carry -- a policy the FCC rejected in 2001 and again in February unanimously.

Defenders of Martin’s plan said dual-carriage issues would be decided by the cable operators responding to market forces, not to government mandates.

According to FCC and industry sources, Martin wanted to give TV stations authority to elect mandatory carriage for their digital signals and retransmission consent for their analog signals. Current FCC rules allow must-carry just for analog signals.

Since TV stations would likely opt for must-carry of the digital signal, cable operators said they would need to continue to carry analog signals because only 40% of cable homes have at least one digital set-top box. That scenario would effectively produce dual must-carry, the MSOs said.