Appeals court denies broadcaster request to stop FCC viewability ruling

After expending considerable effort (and cost), the broadcast industry has lost an attempt before a federal appeals court to block the FCC’s decision to sunset the viewability rule.

The FCC voted last June to end the viewability rule, which means that in December, cable operators will no longer have to transmit both dual analog and digital feeds of must-carry television signals. The commission said that low-cost converter boxes offered by cable operators could easily make such programming available to viewers.

Broadcasters, led by the NAB, have relentlessly protested the FCC ruling. In August, the FCC’s Media Bureau again denied to delay the action. The broadcasters then went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to challenge to the FCC’s decision. The court denied the broadcaster’s petition for a stay on Monday, Sept. 24, saying the broadcasters “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.“

The FCC’s order contains requirements that cable operators give their subscribers 90 days or more before the change. The commission could also reinstate analog carriage if there are sufficient complaints from viewers.

TV broadcasters most affected by the rule are smaller stations that have to invoke must-carry status to ensure carriage. Stations that have already negotiated carriage are not affected.