NAB: Cable Blocked HDTV Super Bowl


The National Association of Broadcasters complained Monday that cable
operators decided to "block" the high-definition feed of ABC's coverage of the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl triumph Sunday.

The NAB said a survey it conducted found that "viewers in 64 of 80 markets
where broadcasters have converted to [HDTV] were unable to watch the Super Bowl
on ABC in HDTV on Sunday through their local cable system."

The trade group said ABC's off-air HDTV feed was available in markets that
included 69 percent of TV households, but cable operators that carried the HDTV
signal Sunday night served subscribers in market that included 27 percent of all
TV households.

"It's disappointing that cable-TV operators are continuing to block viewer
access to digital and HDTV programming delivered by local broadcasters," NAB
president and CEO Edward O. Fritts said.

"One would think cable operators would want to provide their customers with
access to broadcast HDTV programming like the Super Bowl, which, year in and
year out, is the country's most watched program," he added.

According to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, HDTV
service (including cable and broadcast) is offered by at least one cable
operator in 62 of the top 100 TV markets.

The NAB claimed that about 10 percent of the 700 commercial TV stations that
have begun digital broadcasting are being carried by cable.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission Monday opened a new
rulemaking designed to update policies on the digital-television transition.

Commercial TV stations are required to complete the transition by Dec. 31,
2006, and surrender their analog licenses unless they can show that fewer than
85 percent of households in a market have the equipment needed (digital-TV sets
or converter boxes) to view digital-TV signals.

In the notice, the FCC discussed in detail some of the legal ambiguities
associated with evaluating a request from TV stations that claim that the 85
percent test has not been met and they should be allowed to continue the
transmission of analog-TV signals.