Stevens Denies Must-Carry Intervention at FCC

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Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Thursday that he did not intervene at the Federal Communications Commission to block the agency’s planned June 21 vote to impose new digital-TV mandates on cable operators.

Communications lobbyists told Multichannel News Stevens or his staff persuaded Republican FCC member Robert McDowell to block the vote because Stevens wanted to deal with the carriage issue in his pending telecommunications bill (S. 2686).

“That’s not true,” Stevens told reporters, adding that his only comments on the subject came two weeks ago when he made it clear that he would support FCC adoption of the new cable-carriage rules.

“Other than that, I have not said anything about it,” he added. “I did see [FCC chairman Kevin] Martin personally and said, ‘I hope he saw my public statement.’ He said he had.”

Martin wanted the FCC to adopt multicast-must-carry rules, which would have forced cable operators to carry every free digital-TV-programming service beamed by a TV station -- a burden that could mean six or more services per station. Current FCC rules require carriage of one programming service per TV station.

McDowell's vote would have given Martin a 3-2 victory. After McDowell refused to support him, Martin pulled multicast must-carry from the agency's meeting agenda.

Typically, an FCC chairman places an item on the agenda expecting to see it pass.

Stevens said he hadn’t ruled out addressing multicast must-carry in his telecommunications bill, adding, “It may come up.”

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