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New FCC Rule Requires Cable Companies To Carry Broadcasters Analog And Digital Signals

In a move that many broadcasters consider a victory for their industry, the Federal Communications Commission has approved a new must-carry regulation that forces cable operators to carry the analog as well as the digital channels transmitted by local TV stations.

Per the new rule, cable systems are required to carry both analog and digital signals if the cable operator in question uses both types of transmission. This provides an out for smaller, analog-dependent cable operators, who can get a waiver for the requirement.

The new must-carry rule will expire three years after the digital transition date of February 17, 2009.

The broadcast industry has long advocated such dual carriage, warning that millions of analog cable homes could lose access to local TV signals overnight when stations make the switch to digital TV.

"If the cable companies had their way, you, your mother and father, or your next door neighbor could go to sleep one night after watching their favorite channel and wake up the next morning to a dark, fuzzy screen," said FCC chairman Kevin Martin. “"In the absence of the action we took, some broadcast stations would have become unwatchable.”

Cable operators, who oppose the new must-carry rule, argue that their only obligation should be to inform customers that they have to lease a digital set-top box to get the must-carry stations.

The FCC's new dual-carriage mandate applies to stations that demand cable carriage, but not to the affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox—about 800 in number—that negotiate their way into carriage via cable systems.