Re: Cable, HDTV and Must-Carry

The over air stations that cable TV carries as part of "Basic

> Service" also broadcast HDTV signals (unencrypted) that should > according to the FCC regs be carried as part of "Basic Service" > in-the-clear by Comcast. U agree or not? > - RM


I assume that:

- By "HDTV" you mean either 1080i or 720p.

- By "in the clear" you mean that the CATV company delivers to each subscriber an exact digital replica of the HTDV digital stream that it receives from the station's transmitter.

- You are referring to the primary-channel DTV stream (not a subchannel) of a "local commercial television station" (as defined in 47 CFR 76.55(c)) which also transmits a simultaneous analog signal.

Under these assumptions:

- Current FCC regulations applicable to mandatory carriage ("must- carry") do not require a CATV to carry the HDTV stream, even if said regulations require carriage of the analog signal.

- Carriage of the HDTV stream pursuant to a retransmission- consent agreement between the station licensee and a CATV is subject to the terms of the agreement, not FCC regulation.

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Given the history of the FCC's experience with must-carry, I can understand its reticence. Historically, every must-carry rule that the FCC has promulgated on its own motion (without specific Congressional authority) has been swatted down by the courts.

The FCC's current must-carry rules were authorized by Congress, but even then, they just barely survived court challenge. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld them in a fractured 5-4 decision.

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That URL points to 76.55 ("Definitions applicable to the must-carry rules"), not to the actual rules. The actual rules are at 76.56 ("Signal carriage obligations").
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"Congress is monitoring the changes in the television > and broadcast industry closely. In addition to watching > the potential for debate surrounding FCC's must-carry > rule, several representatives are hoping that broadcasters > convert quickly, so they can auction off the spectrum now > used for analog broadcasts. ..." > -
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Congress is indeed "monitoring" the situation, but they don't seem to be doing much about signal carriage rules.

Effective February 17, 2009, all full-power broadcast stations must cease analog broadcasts and convert to digital exclusively. Under current law, CATV companies will then be required to carry only the primary-channel digital stream, but they will not be required to carry subchannels. The FCC is considering imposing mandatory carriage for all subchannels ("multicasting"), but it hasn't taken formal action.

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Neal McLain

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Neal McLain
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