Court requests info on digital must-carry

December 3, 2004

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has asked the FCC what its plans are for multichannel digital must-carry. The FCC has 30 days to answer.

The request for information was made in connection with a lawsuit filed by Paxson Communications, a broadcast station group owner and operator of the PAX TV network. Paxson has argued that broadcasters should be guaranteed cable transmission of all channels they choose to broadcast on their digital spectrum. Such a policy would enhance the value of their station properties.

The court’s order did not demand that the commission produce any new decision on digital must-carry. It simply wants an explanation of the status of the issue before the commission.

Such an explanation is already on the record from FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Last September, Powell told the Senate Commerce Committee there was no consensus among FCC members to expand must-carry beyond a station’s primary digital signal.

Powell said he is not inclined to expand the current mandate and has serious constitutional questions as to whether it would even be legal.

Powell seemed perplexed that broadcasters such as Paxson are making such an issue over policy, arguing that the FCC already decided the must-carry issue in 2001. A member of the commission then, Powell noted that the FCC came to the conclusion in 2001 that Congress did not intend that stations have the right to multichannel must-carry.

For more information, visit www.fcc.gov.

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