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Religious broadcast association pushes multichannel must-carry

As television broadcasters continue to favor multichannel must-carry, an association of religious broadcasters is playing a leading role in the lobbying effort, the National Journal reported.

However, the window of opportunity may be closing for Congressional action on the issue, said Frank Wright, chief of National Religious Broadcasters. Wright was referring to the fact that legislation setting a deadline for the DTV conversion, and auctioning the analog spectrum to be vacated by broadcasters, is part of a larger budget reconciliation measure now moving through Congress.

Neither the pending Senate or House legislation would require cable operators to carry the multiple signals that broadcasters can transmit once they switch to the digital spectrum. In the Senate, where support for such must-carry multicasting is the strongest, procedural rules precluded such amendments to the current DTV legislation.

The cable industry’s top lobbyist responded last week with a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), urging Frist to oppose efforts to require cable providers to carry more than one digital channel from each local broadcaster in their regions.

Government-mandated multicasting requirements constitutes taking cable operators’ private property, which, in the absence of compensation, is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment, said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. He added that such a requirement would give broadcasters an enormous and unfair advantage over non-broadcast cable networks.

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