NAB urges commission to adopt HD, SD satellite carriage rules

The NAB told the FCC June 19 that it should adopt rules requiring satellite carriers like DIRECTV and DISH to carry the signals of all local TV stations in HD and SD in markets where they carry any local station’s HD and SD signals.

In reply comments submitted to the FCC, the trade organization also urged the commission to institute satellite viewability rules that will ensure satellite subscribers with analog TV sets can watch “carry one, carry all stations.”

At issue is whether satellite carriers should be required to carry the SD versions of HD local channels they deliver. The Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 allows satellite carriers to offer local TV channels, which is known as “local into local,” but satellite carriers choosing to carry one local station in a market must carry all other local stations in that designated market area (DMA).

However, as more local stations make HD versions of their signal available, the commission has sought guidance in how local into local should be applied. In comments from DIRECTV, the DBS provider contended that being required to carry the SD version of HD channels it already carries is not an efficient use of its “valuable capacity.” Similarly, comments from DISH to the FCC assert that satellite transponder space is maximized “and modulation efficiencies are generally exhausted.” As a result, there is limited capacity to meet its own internal needs much less new government mandates, the company said.

For its part, the NAB pointed to the history of DBS-broadcast carriage, which it said demonstrates that whenever “reasonable rules and regulations relating to that carriage have been proposed,” the DBS industry claims capacity scarcity.

The NAB also offered an alternative to carrying both the HD and SD signals of all stations in a market. “If DISH and DIRECTV do not wish to devote the necessary capacity…, it appears another option available to them is providing upgraded boxes to all subscribers in need of them,” the NAB reply comments said.

The broadcast trade association also reminded the commission of the reasons for the “carry one, carry all” rule. The rule is in place to make sure a wide variety of over-the-air channels remain available and to prevent “the local-to-local compulsory license from interfering with existing vigorous competition” among local broadcasters, it said.

To read the reply comments in their entirety, visit