FCC split on digital must-carry

May 1, 2006

Digital multichannel must-carry — the longtime goal of television broadcasters — continues to be a well-beaten dead horse.

Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who has supported the concept, told broadcasters at NAB that the commission remains evenly split on the issue, with both Democrats and Republicans opposing multichannel must-carry.

“There's four commissioners and two of the other commissioners who voted no last time that are still there,” Martin told Reuters at NAB. “I would bring it up if there was a majority of the commission who wanted to end up addressing it, but if there's not a majority then I wouldn't.”

There is a Republican vacancy on the normally five-member commission and the White House has nominated telecommunications lawyer Robert McDowell to fill the open slot. However, that nomination has been held up in the Senate over the funding controversy associated with Hurricane Katrina.

The two Democrats on the FCC, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, said last week they believed it was important to address the public interest obligations of local television broadcasters before addressing the digital channel issue.

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