NAB Pulls Back on Dual Carriage


The National Association of Broadcasters has apparently retreated from its long-standing position that cable operators are required to carry both analog-
and digital-TV signals during the transition to digital-only broadcasting.

A one-page statement issued Thursday said NAB staff, as instructed by its
television board of directors, is now charged with "aggressively seek[ing] new
and innovative ideas, including single- versus dual-carriage options."

For years, the NAB has claimed that cable operators by law were required to carry
both analog and digital signals. But in January, the Federal Communications
Commission tentatively concluded that dual carriage was neither required nor
barred. As a result, the agency demanded more evidence that the imposition of
dual carriage would not violate the First Amendment rights of cable operators
and programmers.

A broadcast-industry source indicated that the NAB wanted to show flexibility on
dual must-carry, but not abandonment.

"We are not abandoning dual must-carry. We are willing to consider a change
in that provided certain conditions are met," the source
said. "The NAB board has given NAB staff some flexibility to get a deal.'

The NAB said it was committed to a speedy transition and the return of its analog
spectrum to the FCC and to an overall transition that protected the interests of

The NAB TV board also told NAB staff to "pursue innovative solutions" to
three additional goals:

  • Inclusion of digital-TV tuners in every new TV set'
  • Compatibility between digital-TV sets with cable systems; and
  • "Full carriage" of broadcast-digital signals on cable and satellite

The last goal is apparently the NAB's way of saying cable operators should be
required to carry not just TV stations' primary digital signals, but also all
digital-TV content contained within the 6-megahertz channel.

The cable industry opposes carrying more than the primary signal. The FCC
said cable operators were required to carry only one video stream and
"program-related" content.

The FCC is still determining the scope of the "program-related" mandate.