Cable, Broadcasters Fight HDTV PR Battle

January 9, 2003
Despite recent reports of progress on the DTV must-carry issue -- including secret meetings between federal regulators and broadcast and cable executives -- officials from the two industries this week waged a pr war over who's bringing more HDTV to the consumer.

In advance of the Consumer Electronics Show, the National Cable Television Association announced that HDTV over cable is now available to one third of U.S. TV households. Specifically, NCTA said that HDTV service now is being provided by at least one cable operator in 91 markets, bringing at least one HDTV channel to approximately 37 million homes in the U.S.

HDTV channels include cable networks such as Discovery and HBO as well as the broadcast networks. The cable industry has ramped up its commitment to delivering broadcast HD programming since it announced its intentions to do so last summer in response to requests from the FCC. NCTA says cable operators are now delivering broadcast HD programming in markets ranging in size from New York City to Waco, Texas.

That's just cable's latest spin job, the NAB shot back. Calling the NCTA's press release "flowery," the association "clarified" NCTA's information by noting that of the 90 or so markets mentioned by NCTA, only 33 of those markets are carrying broadcast HDTV programming and that only 10 percent of the 700-plus DTV stations now broadcasting are being carried on cable.

"No amount of rosy NCTA spin changes the fact that the cable industry is still using its gatekeeper clout to deny most Americans access to over-the-air digital and high definition programming," NAB said.

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