Washington - A new digital-TV carriage proposal from broadcasters would have the practical effect of requiring cable systems to carry both analog and digital TV signals during the ongoing transition to all-digital broadcasting.
In a 2,000-word letter Monday, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the Federal Communications Commission the proposal was a "repackaged" attempt to impose constitutionally suspect carriage mandates on cable.
The proposal condemned by the NCTA was floated last month by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Maximum Service Television, leaders in the all-out lobbying campaign to force dual carriage upon cable MSOs.
"No amount of spin can disguise that there's nothing new in this latest NAB/MSTV dual must-carry broadcast scheme," said Daniel Brenner, the NCTA's top lawyer. "Operators would be saddled indefinitely with analog and digital carriage of broadcasters' signals, either immediately or two years hence."
The NAB-MSTV proposal calls in part for DTV-transition rules that would allow a station to demand carriage of its analog or digital signal.
But the NCTA said that was tantamount to dual carriage, because cable systems would never carry DTV signals knowing that millions of analog-only homes would lose access until they purchased DTV sets or digital-to-analog converters.
"The vast majority of cable customers continue to rely on analog viewing, and an operator has no realistic option of removing popular broadcast stations from its analog tier," Brenner wrote.
NAB/MSTV also proposed allowing cable to drop the analog signal as long as the digital signal is viewable in digital homes and in analog homes via downconversion.
But Brenner said this combination would also require cable operators to set aside more channel capacity than necessary to accommodate redundant broadcast signals.