Lawmakers urge Powell to protect digital broadcasters’ 6MHz on cable

February 4, 2005

A group of leading senators and congressmen Feb. 1 sent a letter to out-going FCC Chairman Michael Powell urging him to put forward rules granting broadcasters “full cable carriage of their entire 6MHz of spectrum in digital television.”

At issue is whether or not the commission will establish rules requiring cable systems to carry all of a local broadcaster’s multicast DTV channels. Reports indicate the matter could come to a vote at the next open commission meeting Feb. 10. The chairman has previously voiced his opposition to instituting rules that mandate cable systems to carry all DTV multicast channels of a broadcaster.

In their letter to Powell, the lawmakers said “requiring the carriage of broadcaster’s (sic) 6 MHz of spectrum … will maintain the delicate regulatory balance that makes it possible for small and independent broadcasters to be part of the multi-media and consolidated broadcast landscape.”

They identified “small, independent, religious, family-friendly and minority broadcasters” that focus on community news and information as being “irreparably harmed without a multicast must-carry mandate.”

Anything less than guaranteeing “full carriage of a broadcaster’s 6MHz of spectrum” would “threaten a diversity of ownership and programming.”

Among those signing the letter were Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Trent Lott (R-MS), Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Congressmen Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC), Mark Foley (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL ), Tom Osborne (R-NE), Clay Shaw (R-FL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Henry Bonilla (R-TX).

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