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Bicker Long Enough, Must-Carry Fixes Itself

At the annual year-end luncheon held by the National Cable Telecommunications Association, CEO Robert Sachs pointed out that 454 digital broadcast signals were being carried by cable operators, up from around 92 a year ago.

He pointed out that most of the 454 represented stations with simultaneous carriage of their analog signal. It's all about the art of the deal. Broadcasters with digital carriage ponied up good content, Sachs said.

"Cable operators want to carry compelling programming," he said. "We've seen that with public television."

Of all the digital signals carried on cable, Sachs estimated that about 100 represented public stations. The multicast signals that cable does carry originate primarily from public stations, Sachs said.

He maintained, as he has for years, that multicast must-carry applies to a single video stream, and that " it would require an act of Congress to change the law." If allowed enough time, as demonstrated by the fivefold increase in the number of digital broadcast signals carried on cable over the last year, must-carry will work itself out in the marketplace, Sachs contends.

"There are 390 competitive channels in the market seeking affiliate fees," he said." Broadcast would seem to have an advantage."