NAB’s Rehr: Cable Operators Discriminate

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Las Vegas -- Cable operators should be recast as discriminators against television broadcasters, David K. Rehr, CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, said Monday morning.

Two issues -- multicast must-carry and downconversion -- should be restated before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and other policy makers as forms of prejudice against broadcasters, Rehr said in his keynote address at the NAB2007 convention at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel here.

Multicast must-carry should be branded by a Las Vegas-style term, he said: stripping.

Cable operators, he added, are planning to strip out the multiple streams of video content that broadcasters plan to send out in digital form in the same space where they have until now sent just one TV signal.

“This is, in effect, stripping,” Rehr said, adding, “They are ripping out programming” and denying it to consumers.

This “anti-stripping message” should be taken to Washington, D.C., to make it clear that broadcasters are adding more “slices” of programming to the marketplace and that those slices should be allowed to exist on cable systems along with their competing collection of networks.

Downconversion also needs recasting, he said, so it doesn’t “sound like something to do with duck feathers.”

This is a practice where, he added, cable operators plan to downconvert broadcast signals sent in HD down to standard-definition pictures. If unchecked, he said, this would give cable’s own HD signals an unfair advantage over broadcast signals.

“What we have here is broadcast discrimination by the cable operators,” Rehr added.

Local broadcasters have spent billions of dollars in upgrading their transmission systems to send programming in HD, and the industry should make it clear to policymakers that cable operators that practice downconversion are discriminating against them for competitive advantage, he said.

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