Multicast Must-Carry Debate Fires Up

Reports that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will reconsider multicast must-carry have fired up lawmakers and lobbyists alike. Martin previously said he would revisit the issue once he had a majority on the commission, which finally materialized with the recent confirmation of Robert McDowell. Martin was the lone supporter of multicast must-carry last year when the FCC voted it down on First Amendment grounds.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens told reporters June 7 that multicast must-carry should be decided by Congress, not the FCC. The following day, however, Stevens said his comments were misconstrued, and that he supported Martin's efforts.

Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) displayed no such indistinction. In a letter to Martin, the Congressmen said they opposed any FCC order "that would impose multicast must-carry obligations on cable or satellite operators, or any other provider of video programming."

Barton and Upton pointed out that multicast must-carry didn't pass the House Commerce Committee last year when the analog deadline legislation was hammered out.

"It would be inappropriate for the commission to attempt to do so by regulatory fiat now."

In an eight-page letter to Martin, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association asked the chairman to give it up already.

"The commission has twice decided the issue of multicast must-carry, and it has decided it correctly. One last time, reconsideration should again be denied," it concluded.