NAB Might Skip Multicast Court Battle


It’s not clear at this point whether the National Association of Broadcasters will launch a court fight to scuttle the Federal Communications Commission's ruling that cable systems do not have to carry multiple digital-TV services per station.

NAB executive vice president Marsha MacBride said Wednesday that the trade group might ask the FCC to reconsider, or “recon,” the vote a second time in lieu of an immediate court battle.

“It’s possible that we might not appeal it. It’s possible that we might go back for a recon of the recon,” MacBride said at a forum hosted by the New America Foundation.

The NAB board is meeting this week to map strategy, she added.

“We have various choices in moving forward. We will pursue it aggressively whichever way we go,” she said. “We’ll definitely be looking at both a legal and an FCC route.”

The NAB got a lift Tuesday when Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said he supported mandatory cable carriage of multiple digital-TV services per station, provided that the additional channels were geared toward public service, including news and weather reports.

“Obviously, we will be working very closely with [Stevens],” MacBride said.

The NAB fought alongside the federal government in federal court to protect analog must-carry -- a five-year campaign that concluded in 1997 with a victory in the Supreme Court. But a court attack on multicasting would pit the NAB against the Department of Justice.

However, if Stevens gets his way, the cable industry would have to go to court to overturn a multicast mandate. The cable industry has argued that multicast must-carry violates the First Amendment because it takes up channel capacity that could be allocated to cable networks and other services.

“The bandwidth of the cable operator is not unlimited,” said Dan Brenner, senior vice president of law and regulatory policy at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, speaking at the same event.