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Multichannel must-carry not addressed in bill

The legislation setting a 2009 shutdown date for analog television was silent on one of the most contentious issues facing broadcasting: whether or not cable companies will be required to carry all the new digital programs transmitted by broadcasters.

The must-carry issue and others involving the digital television transition may be the subject of separate legislation in the future. To date, no such legislation has been introduced in Congress.

Broadcasters have insisted on legislation that imposes digital multichannel must-carry provisions. They contend it is essential to the economics of the industry. But the cable companies have balked, arguing that such a requirement would be too costly. Support in Congress for multichannel must-carry has been cool, with key House leaders opposing it.

Another behind-the-scenes fight has been brewing over how the government should allocate the so-called white space on the spectrum, which viewers now see on those channels that do not carry programs. Some technology and Internet service providers, along with consumer groups, have petitioned the FCC to approve a new generation of unlicensed wireless devices to make use of the white space, the New York Times reported.

Those efforts are opposed by broadcasters, who said that those devices would interfere with their transmissions.

The DTV transition has also prompted lobbying by the equipment makers, including Cisco Systems and Intel, and by software companies such as Microsoft, who urged lawmakers to preserve a significant amount of the spectrum for free or unlicensed use.

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