Carriage of broadcasters' multicast signals appear to have the votes

January 23, 2004

Rumors at the FCC and beyond are swirling that three of the FCC’s commissioners are willing to grant broadcasters carriage rights on cable for their multicast channels. Commission members Kathleen Abernathy, Michael Copps and Kevin Martin have all stated separately that they understand the need to mandate carriage, given cable’s nearly 80 percent penetration into consumers’ homes, but are hinging their votes on Chairman Michael Powell’s upcoming proposal of broadcasters’ DTV public-interest obligations.

Copps, for one, has been a big supporter of holding stations and their networks accountable to the public and has spearheaded grass roots “town hall” meetings and supported other activities to get his concerns addressed. Powell has publicly stated that a multicast mandate violates cable’s First Amendment rights.

This in-fighting among commission members has stalled a must-carry decision that was originally expected last fall but now seems more likely to come just before the National Association of Broadcasters’ convention in Las Vegas in April.

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