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PTV Seeks Mandatory DBS Carriage of Multicasts, HD

Despite some very inhospitable winter weather, officials from various local public TV stations across the country have converged on Washington this week seeking a mandate from a new Democrat-controlled Congress to require satellite carriage of their local digital signals, both of the SD and HD variety.

The annual Capitol Hill Day series of meetings is hosted by the Association of Public Television Stations, PTV's lobby group. APTS said this week that public broadcasters are "frustrated that the high-definition signals of commercial stations are carried by satellite distributors, while Public Television stations' new digital signals are kept off."

The public broadcasters will ask Congress to compel EchoStar and DirecTV to carry all local PBS stations' HD and other digital programming now and after the DTV transition is completed.

"It's outrageous that they won't carry the new digital channels from local public stations, but find a way to carry the big four commercial network stations," said APTS President and CEO John Lawson. "We're asking Congress to remedy this huge breach of the public interest." The lobby group is used to the fight; it has filed pleadings along these lines since 2004 with no success in Congress.

APTS wants to amend Sec. 338 of the Communications Act to make it unmistakably clear to DBS firms that the digital signals of public stations are subject to the "carry-one carry-all" provision. APTS said this action "would clarify that the entire multicast digital programming [streams] transmitted by a public television station" would be subject to mandatory carriage.

APTS said DirecTV and EchoStar now have a total of more than 26 million digital subscriber homes, or nearly one-quarter of all TV homes in the U.S.