The National Association of Broadcasters has started a massive push for Congress to mandate cable carriage of multicast broadcast streams.
The move comes less than two months after the NAB reluctantly agreed to a 2009 “hard date” to return their analog spectrum. DTV bills are pending in both the House and Senate.
As part of its assault, the NAB on Wednesday unveiled a study touting the supposed benefits of multicasting to consumers and local economies. According to the survey, nearly 80% of local TV stations are unlikely to multicast without assurances of cable carriage.
NAB President Eddie Fritts blamed the cable industry for trying to block an otherwise pro-consumer effort that would increase program diversity and local content.
“This is also about more competition to cable,” he said. “That’s why the cable gatekeepers will fight it so fiercely. They don’t like competition.”
Fritts said multicasting will be the NAB’s “No. 1 priority” when Congress returns in September.
The cable industry is already gearing up for a fight.
“NAB’s tired rhetoric doesn’t disguise the fact that broadcasters are asking the government for another handout that the FCC has already twice rejected, would harm diversity in programming and would do nothing to speed the digital TV transition,” said Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
On Sept. 8, at least 91 broadcasters will fly into Washington, D.C., to lobby key members of both the House and Senate commerce committees to support a multicasting mandate. In a similar “fly-in” on July 21, some 65 broadcasters met with members of the Senate Commerce Committee.
NAB is also taking out print ads in Capitol Hill newspapers and NAB lobbyists are working to discredit key cable industry arguments against multicasting, including the contention that carrying multiple program streams would sap needed capacity.
“This is about competition,” said John Orlando, NAB’s executive VP of government relations. “This is not about capacity. The capacity argument is a bogus argument. The myth needs to be knocked off the table.”