Tauzin Backs Cable on Dual Must-Carry

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The cable industry has won the loyalty of at least one powerful Capitol Hill
lawmaker on mandated carriage of analog- and digital-TV signals during the
transition to all-digital broadcasting.

Jessica Wallace, a top policy aide to House Energy and Commerce Committee
chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), said Tuesday that Tauzin views dual must-carry as
a First Amendment violation and does not support it.

'He thinks it's an undue burden on cable operators in that they have spent
billions of dollars upgrading their systems without any government assistance.
He thinks the same programming . is redundant, and he doesn't see the benefit
that much of that,' Wallace told a meeting of the Association for Maximum
Service Television (MSTV).

On the multicasting issue -- whether digital-only TV stations can demand
cable carriage of several TV-programming services provided free-of-charge, and
not just one -- Wallace said Tauzin is leaning in the broadcasters'
direction.

Tauzin's concern is for broadcast-only consumers who purchase digital-TV
converters just so they can continue viewing TV on their analog sets. Wallace
said Tauzin would like to see consumers who make that investment rewarded with
access to additional broadcasting services.

'He does have a lot of concern regarding that,' she added.

Broadcasters argued that multicasting will not be financially viable -- and
thus of benefit to broadcast-only consumers -- unless cable operators are
required to carry those signals.

The Federal Communications Commission is debating the multicasting issue,
with the focus on whether the term 'primary video' means multiple programming
streams in connection with federal must-carry law.

FCC chairman Michael Powell voted in 2001 that primary meant one programming
service, and not several.

In comments to reporters Tuesday, Powell indicated that he wasn't about to
change his mind. 'I said what I said once with regard to what I believe [is] a
fair interpretation of the statute. I think it will be difficult to convince at
least me that it was in error,' he added.

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