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FCC Rejects Multicast Must-Carry

Washington — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted four-to-one to reject a proposal that multi-system cable operators be required to carry multiple broadcast signals from terrestrial broadcasters.

The ruling means that must-carry rules require that cable operators only are required to carry a broadcasters’ primary signal — not additional multicast signals in the case of digital television transmissions.

The commission also voted five-to-zero against requiring cable operators to carry both the analog and digital TV signal from a broadcaster at the same time during the digital television transition.

The rulings, which were a reaffirmation of a tentative decision the FCC made in 2001, was a blow to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which fought aggressively to expand existing must-carry requirements. The NAB is expected to take the fight to the courts and Congress.

The FCC ruled that multicast station carriage requirements were not necessary to ensure the survival of over-the-air TV.

The FCC’s Media Bureau, which recommended the decision, cited a recent the recent carriage deal struck between the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Association of Public Television Stations as verification that the marketplace can best determine carriage issues.

The commission opted to address at a later time the public interest obligations that apply to broadcasters’ primary digital signals.