Barton, Upton warn FCC on multichannel must-carry

Multichannel must-carry would violate communications law and the administration's free-market philosophy and should not be imposed on cable or satellite operators.

That's the opinion of House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). The two congressmen urged FCC chairman Kevin Martin to stay away from the issue.

Martin has said he will see if a majority of FCC members want to revisit the multichannel must-carry, which would require cable operators to carry every channel of digital programming transmitted by a television station.

“We believe that any such order would be inconsistent with the existing must-carry provisions [in the 1992 Cable Act],” Barton and Upton told Martin in a letter. “Forcing carriage of additional broadcast streams would only reduce the amount of capacity available for non-broadcast programming at a time when consumers are increasingly watching non-broadcast content and calling for more carriage of independent programming.”

The FCC rejected multicast must-carry in 2001 and again in 2005. Martin, who opposed the 2005 ruling, is trying for a third time.