NAB, MSTV applaud FCC must-carry proposal for DTV transition

The NAB and Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) filed joint comments with the FCC July 16 applauding its “efforts to put consumers first” in the commission's Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proceeding regarding the cable industry’s must-carry obligation following the Feb. 17, 2009, completion of the DTV transition.

The broadcast associations’ filing endorsed the FCC’s proposal to allow cable operators to select between downconverting digital must-carry channels for analog subscribers and carrying both digital and analog signals for those channels or carrying only the digital must-carry TV signal and providing all subscribers with analog sets with the equipment to receive those signals.

Both approaches “ensure that cable subscribers are not disenfranchised by the switch to digital-only broadcasting after the end of analog broadcasting,” the filing said.

The cable industry has objected to this approach on the grounds that it overextends the reach of the government in controlling how private property — namely a cable system — is used and violates the U.S. Constitution.

However, according to the NAB and MSTV filing, the approach “is clearly and fully supported by the provisions of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 and does not raise any constitutional concerns.”

The Notice also would compel cable operators to carry all of the content bits transmitted by a broadcaster to avoid degradation. The associations endorsed this approach, saying that in a digital age, objective measurement techniques are available to ensure cable subscribers have access to high-quality digital TV broadcasts.

According to the filing, the commission “should allow measurement variations of no more than 1% of content bits in a given program.” Similarly, the associations said DTV signals downconverted to NTSC at cable headends for analog subscribers should meet the ITU grade 4 standard and should comply with existing signal-to-noise rules for carriage on analog cable systems.

The broadcast associations also said broadcasters, not cable operators, should control program format (centercut or letterbox) when a DTV program is downcoverted at the cable headend. The MSTV and NAB also called for the commission to set up a streamlined process to address consumer complaints about signal degradation.

For the cable industry’s perspective see: “NCTA cautions FCC not to ‘throw sand’ into gears of DTV transition with new must-carry obligations.”

To read the joint NAB/MSTV filing, visit: