FCC to study DTV's impact on analog viewers

The FCC is planning to examine the obligations of cable operators to ensure that home television viewers with analog receivers can view digital signals of local TV stations.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin is seeking support among commissioners to launch a rulemaking that would establish federal policy well before TV stations must cease analog transmission on Feb. 17, 2009.

The inquiry would seek to set policy concerning how pay operators handle and process off-air signals. When stations transmit digital signals, cable consumers with analog equipment won't be able to view them. However, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association wants cable operators that carry local broadcasters in digital to have the right to offer the same signal in analog from the headend.

Such headend downconversion would be a major topic of the FCC policy.