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02.04.2005
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Public television, NCTA announce digital multicast carriage agreement


APTS president John Lawson (right) and NCTA president Robert Sachs (center) look on as FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein congratulates the associations for forging a cable-public TV multicast deal. (Photo courtesy NCTA)

The Association of Public Television Stations and the National Cable Telecommunications Association announced a 10-year agreement committing cable system operators nationwide to carry multicast digital signals from local public broadcasters.

The agreement covers pre- and post-analog switchoff. Before stations relinquish spectrum used for their analog service, cable systems with 750MHz or more of activated channel capacity, offering HD or other digital programming, commit to carry up to four streams of free non-commercial digital broadcast programming from one public TV station in the market in addition to that station’s analog signal.

After analog switchoff, cable systems with that much capacity offering HD programming will carry free non-commercial digital programming of each public television station in the market that’s entitled to analog must-carry rights. This includes up to four streams of free non-commercial digital HD and SD programming and associated material. The only limitation pertains to duplicate material.

APTS president John Lawson and NCTA president and CEO Robert Sachs announced the plan during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Cable systems with 750MHz of available capacity will implement the agreement within 180 days of its ratification. Ratification by MSOs representing 80 percent of cable subscribers and public television stations in markets with 80 percent of U.S. TV households must occur within 60 days of approval by the boards of the APTS, PBS and the NCTA. The PBS and NCTA boards of directors are expected to take action on the agreement this week.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to take up digital must-carry during a meeting Feb. 10. Out-going chairman Michael Powell has made his opposition to the concept of extending must-carry obligations to broadcasters’ multicast channels well-known in the past. Reports have indicated that he may have a majority of commissioners on his side to settle the matter in a manner that most broadcasters would find to be unfavorable.

Showing concern over the matter, Belo chairman, president and CEO Robert Decherd sent a letter to Powell urging him to leave the issue of must-carry and digital multicast channels up to his successor. See “Belo chairman urges Powell to leave multicast issue to successor.”

For more information, visit www.ncta.com, www.apts.org and www.nab.org.

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