FCC Adopts DBS Carriage Order for HD

The FCC had set a vote today (March 19) to issue a landmark order on satellite carriage of local stations and local HD. But less than two hours before the commission’s monthly meeting was set to start, the item was struck from the agenda, with a message from the commission that it had already adopted the order.

As is its common practice, the FCC did not immediately release the text of the order it had adopted.

However, published reports citing FCC sources said the commission would adopt a phased-in HD carriage mandate along the lines of a proposal from DirecTV and EchoStar. That timeline, which calls for HD carriage everywhere an operator carries any local channels by February 2013, involves intermediate benchmarks the DBS operators have already met or have already planned to meet.

The order also reportedly does not mandate carriage of local-into-local coverage in all 210 markets.

NAB and the rest of the industry has long pushed for “local-into-local” carriage by satellite of virtually all local channels as a public service, to include the growing list of local HD venues. The DBS firms have argued that to be required to carry any and all broadcast-generated channels would be far too costly in the short term, and cost billions of dollars, to implement. (NAB, in one FCC filing, has asked the FCC to require the DBS companies to prove it contentions that the broadcasters’ demands pose an unreasonable burden on satellite parties.)

DBS provides DirecTV and Dish, on the other hand, have questioned local broadcasters’ overall commitment to HD by asking so many local stations in all-sized markets have not yet transitioned to HD.

Stay tuned.