Prospects slim for DTV multicast must-carry

September 13, 2004

Many television broadcasters have made multicast must-carry over cable a do-or-die industry issue. However, comments last week by FCC Chairman Michael Powell do not bode well for an FCC mandate forcing cable companies to carry all of a broadcaster’s program channels.

Powell told the Senate Commerce Committee there is no consensus among FCC members to expand must-carry beyond a station’s primary digital signal. He said he is not inclined to expand the current mandate and has serious constitutional questions as to whether it would even be legal.

In 2001, Powell, then a member of the commission, noted that the FCC came to the conclusion that Congress did not intend for stations to have the right to multichannel must-carry.

Conceding that the current FCC could change its collective mind, Powell suggested that multicasting may not be an advantage to speeding along the DTV transition and may even hinder it.

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