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'No Degradation' Key Element in NAB DTV Transition Plan

In a letter to the FCC, NAB and several TV groups urged the FCC to include a "no degradation" requirement in any plan that covers cable's carriage of broadcasters' DTV signals.

"The anti-degradation principle is a fundamental part of the analog carriage rules, and, as directed by Congress, it should be adapted and preserved in the digital environment to be effective immediately," the broadcasters told the FCC. The letter noted that the while the government has "allowed analog sets to be sold in great numbers even though it seeks to bring the digital transition to conclusion," consumers have made large investments in DTV sets. To avoid disenfranchising these viewers, the letter said "by the end of the transition, cable systems should be required to transmit the broadcaster's full digital signal from the head-end and either (a) provide for downconversion in subscriber homes with analog sets or (b) if the cable operator prefers, also send a downconverted version for homes with analog sets." NAB and the broadcasters include multicast in their definition of the full digital signal noting, "Just because consumers subscribe to pay service, they should not be denied the additional free over-the-air programming that digital broadcasting offers." These requirements, the group said, should apply to DBS operators as well as cable companies.

NAB and the broadcasters also said the FCC must not adopt any proposal that allows unlicensed devices to operate on unused TV channels, "at least until after the spectrum giveback." The letter also said the FCC "should assure adequate spectrum for all auxiliary broadcast equipment, such as wireless microphones and remote hand-held DTV cameras" to facilitate the DTV transition.

For details, see the letter signed by officials from the National Association of Broadcasters, the ABC Television Affiliates Association, CBS Television Network Affiliates Association, Fox Television Affiliates Association, NBC Television Affiliates, ABC Owned Television Stations Operations, ABC Network, Capital Broadcasting Company, Gannett Broadcasting, Heart-Argyle Television, Hubbard Television Group, LIN Television, McGraw-Hill. Emmis Communications, Dispatch Broadcast Group, Raycom Media, Tribune Television, Barrington Broadcasting, Citadel Communications, Media General, Liberty Corporation and Belo Corp.