Martin Proposes HD Exemption for Small Cable

Broadcasters may have thought last September’s HD cable carriage order meant that where local station broadcast in HD, local cable subscribers would be able to view that programming.

Not so fast, said FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin Tuesday. It turns out, subscribers to small cable operators may not get all that promised HD.

Small cable operators have argued that they just don’t have the capacity to carry all the local HD channels. Responding to that need, Martin said he was circulating a proposal at the commission that would give cable systems with 552 MHz or smaller capacity an exemption from this HD requirement. Systems of this size would not need to file a waiver request; they would automatically be relieved of the obligation.

Martin also reminded the ACA that the commission’s viewability order allows them to downconvert digital signals to analog, preserving viewability for analog subs without unduly burdening the systems.

Martin unleashed the news in a speech to the American Cable Association, which represents small operators and has lobbied for such a broad exemption.