Sachs: Multicasting Would Dumb Down Cable


Washington -- Digital-TV stations given the right to offer multiple video services over cable systems would likely provide a slate of low-budget infomercials and home shopping services, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs said Monday.

"We haven't seen a business model for any other kind of programming," Sachs told reporters at a briefing here explaining the NCTA's opposition to an expanded version of must-carry.

"We don't want to see cable-channel lineups dumbed down with more infomercials, home shopping and low-budget channels that occupy valuable bandwidth that can be used to deliver services consumers want," he added.

The Federal Communications Commission could vote in December to adopt a multicast mandate, which would allow TV stations that divide their digital-TV signals into five or six programming services to demand cable carriage of all of them instead of just one, as allowed under current law.

NBC, ABC, public television and some station groups are pressing the FCC to adopt a multicast mandate, claiming that they would use the new channels to provide more local news, educational services and public-affairs programming.

"There is no evidence in the commission's record of whether those services would be financially viable," Sachs said. "The most obvious forms of programming would be program-length infomercials and home shopping services."

Under FCC rules adopted in January 2001, cable operators are required to carry one digital-broadcast service per station after all TV stations have surrendered their analog licenses. The commission also said cable was not required to carry analog- and digital-TV signals during the transition, also called dual must-carry.

"We think the FCC got it right the first time," Sachs said, vowing a court fight if the agency were to reverse itself. "We would pursue all available legal avenues available to us with respect to dual must-carry or multicasting."