Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) said Wednesday that the Federal Communications Commission should defer to Congress on whether to force cable companies to carry multiple programming services of local digital-TV stations.
"I hope that if it's going to be done, it'll be done by Congress and not the FCC," Stevens told reporters after an address to hundreds of cable-industry officials.
Stevens' comments came in the wake of reports that FCC chairman Kevin Martin is planning a June 15 vote on rules that would impose so-called multicast must-carry on cable operators despite cable's strong opposition.
Current FCC rules require cable carriage of just one programming service per station. Using digital technology, TV stations can use a 6-megahertz channel to provide at least six programs.
For the past eight years, the National Association of Broadcasters has urged the FCC to require cable carriage of the multiple programming streams. Martin is the first FCC chairman to endorse the NAB's position.