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NAB, MSTV ask FCC to reconsider multicast must-carry issue

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association for Maximum Service Television jointly filed a petition with the FCC seeking reconsideration of its decision to refrain from imposing a must-carry obligation on cable systems to call all digital multicast channels transmitted by local broadcasters.

Specifically, the petition questions two decisions from the commission in its Second Report and Order on digital carriage.

According to the petition, the commission “committed (a) fundamental error” in denying must carry when it “failed to explain why the plain language of Section 614” requiring carriage of “all signals” of commercial TV stations “does not mandate carriage of local commercial signals during the transition.”

The broadcast trade associations’ filing contended that the statutory language is unambiguous and “the Commission cannot depart from the specific mandate of its governing statute.”

In the filing, the groups told the commission that its interpretation of the 1992 Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act failed to achieve in the digital domain what Congress set out as its objectives for analog signals, specifically carriage of “all portions” of a local TV broadcaster’s signal “that are accessible for free and without special equipment.”

A second fundamental error in the commission’s decision pertains to how the FCC applied the Turner Broadcasting case test, according to the filing. The Supreme Court requires that carriage rules promote governmental interests, not demand proof that they are necessary or essential, the filing said.

The associations’ filing also argued that:

  • the commission should not regard must carry rules for multicast signals to be a burden on the free speech rights of the cable industry because there has been a “vast expansion of cable capacity” and cable systems now “carry two digital signals in the space needed for one analog signal;”
  • the commission’s decision did not advance Congress’s goal of strengthening local broadcasting, not just preventing its disappearance;
  • the commission failed to acknowledge “a mountain of evidence” showing that transitional and multicast carriage would strengthen local broadcasting and increase the diversity of available information serves for consumers.

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