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Barton says prospects dim for multicasting

A key House Republican leader on broadcast policy said he is not in favor of requiring cable multichannel must-carry of broadcast signals as part of new DTV legislation now being written in Congress.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has said that it’s his preference that the new legislation not have any must-carry provision.

Barton said he is a few weeks away from introducing a bill that would terminate analog broadcasting on Dec. 31, 2006. He added that he still couldn’t guarantee that multicast must-carry won’t be addressed, since negotiations are still in progress.

The bill, he said, will represent the product of four-way talks between himself and Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), John Dingell (D-MI) and Edward Markey (D-MA).

Barton hopes to mainly focus on the DTV shutoff deadline. He said his preferences are that Congress institute the Dec. 31, 2006, hard date and that it doesn’t mandate multicast must-carry for broadcasters.

Last month, the FCC rejected multicast must-carry, requiring cable to carry just one programming service per station. Broadcasters have said they will turn to Congress and the courts to overturn the ruling.

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