Voting on whether cable systems must-carry multicast digital channels prior to the departure of Michael Powell as FCC chairman is “very ill-advised” and “could hamper Congress’s ability to consider all of the important issues surrounding the digital transition,” according to a letter sent last week from Belo Chairman, President and CEO Robert Decherd to the FCC's chairman.
The letter addresses whether or not the government will order cable systems to carry every digital channel a broadcaster transmits. The cable industry has resisted such a mandate, saying it would gobble up finite bandwidth on their systems that potentially would preclude them from offering other services to consumers. They also have argued that it would run contrary to the First Amendment.
“Given the combined market penetration and gatekeeper status of cable operators and satellite providers, local broadcasters need multicast carriage in order for these services to reach viewers on a financially viable basis,” the letter said. “Without multicast carriage, the DTV transition could be protracted; with it, there will be local multicast broadcast programming that provides consumers with the extra incentive they are looking for to purchase digital television sets.”