McCain DTV Bill Includes Must-Carry

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Digital-television legislation introduced Tuesday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would include must-carry provisions found in a proposed House bill that has drawn opposition from the cable industry.

McCain’s bill would end analog broadcasting Dec. 31, 2008, just like the House-staff draft. But unlike the House effort, McCain would provide $463 million to fund set-top boxes for roughly 9.3 million low-income households that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasting.

McCain’s bill would authorize cable companies to downconvert local digital-TV signals to analog in order to ensure that cable subscribers with analog TVs can continue to view their local stations.

But McCain would require that if a cable company elected to downconvert a must-carry station, it had to downconvert all other must-carry stations in the same market.

A National Cable & Telecommunications Association spokesman did not comment on McCain’s bill. Last month, NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow said downconversion requirements in the House bill were tantamount to mandatory dual carriage.

At a press conference, McCain said his goal was to provide public-safety groups with spectrum now in the hands of analog-TV stations. With House and Senate committee leaders supporting an end to analog TV, McCain said he was hopeful about his bill becoming law.

“I think, finally, we are going to see this become a reality, and I hope it’s this year,” he added.