Sun Will Set on the FCC’s Dual-Carriage Mandate

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WASHINGTON — Cable operators will be able to free up some spectrum starting in December, now that a federal appeals court has refused to block implementation of the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to sunset its dual-carriage/viewability rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week dismissed a broadcaster petition to stay the FCC’s viewability rule order, under which cable operators were required to provide both analog and digital versions of must-carry TV station signals.

On Aug. 24, the FCC’s Media Bureau denied the request by Agape Church Inc., London Broadcasting Co., the National Association of Broadcasters and Una Vez Mas to stay the decision, which takes effect in December.

The petitioners then sought a stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit until the court can hear a broadcaster challenge to the decision. The court denied a stay as well last Monday (Sept. 24), saying only that the petitioners “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”

Those would include demonstrating the likelihood of winning the appeal and suffering serious harm if the stay were not granted.

Despite some last-minute lobbying by broadcasters, including religious TV stations, the FCC in June voted to sunset the viewability rule, which means that, as of December, cable operators will no longer be required to carry dual feeds to satisfy the FCC requirement that they be viewable to their subscribers.

Instead, the FCC said that the no-cost and low-cost converter boxes offered by cable operators would satisfy the still-important obligation to make must-carry stations accessible to viewers.

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