The intent of congressional and FCC rules has always been to foster localism by encouraging cable and broadcasters to support the DTV transition. However, as I am sure you know, these rules are misused to force carriage of non-local programming in return for retransmission consent agreements. Cable operators are forced to carry programming without regard to localism or consumer desires. The Commission’s revival of the "either/or" proposal sets the stage for a negative double indemnity against the American consumer and cable industry. On one hand, broadcasters could elect digital must-carry and on the other hand elect analog retransmission consent. So in a world where broadcasters and networks with dominant market influence use retransmission consent to extract greater fees and more tied programming carriage, now the digital incentive will be removed from the equation. This "either/or" proposal is nothing more than a corporate welfare scheme that benefits only the strongest broadcasters. It seems to accomplish little more than to put a "thumb on the scale" to strengthen the already strong hand of network-affiliated broadcasters in retransmission consent negotiations for analog carriage. These parties already have the ability to negotiate for digital carriage as part of the analog deal: the "either/or" proposal simply gives them what they can already obtain — and leaves them free to try to extract other concessions in return for analog carriage. What the small cable operator is left with is more fees and more inappropriate programming jammed onto our networks in order to appease the broadcast industry, which continues its uncreative labor on an outdated business model. How will this proposed rule motivate broadcasters to migrate to DTV? In our experience, many of the broadcasters serving our markets have not given the DTV issue much effort. There are few channels, little sales activity and general dismay in having to make the investment. In our opinion, the chance to sell two or three additional channels in market presents a huge opportunity for the broadcast industry; however, few appear to be acting on the upside. All we hear are the threats to charge for carriage – in other words, the pass-through of a new excise tax to consumers for use of their free airwaves. Yes it’s true we charge a nominal fee for the generally regulated broadcast tier (usually around $12 per month). However, the imposition of carriage fees could have the effect of easily doubling these charges to consumers with no visible increased benefit. It doesn’t seem fair to further tax these consumers just because the broadcast industry can’t figure out how to use the additional digital spectrum to advance their profitability. We do not understand how proposals like the "either/or" rule can possibly make the DTV transition better, but here are a few suggestions: First, the FCC should support extending the DTV deadline until 2008. More time is needed to figure out too many details. For instance, if a cable operator carries broadcast digital signals in the analog and digital standard definition tiers in order to accommodate the additional channels, does this meet the standard and is it in the best interests of the broadcasters and public interests? Second, allow time for consumers to adopt DTV. Don’t force a box on every TV set. Two-thirds of cable consumers – that is almost 48 million cable customers – don’t have a converter on their TV, and there is no point in forcing them to add hardware. Finally, reinforce the concept of localism in support of the DTV transition. Don’t make the consumer pay for these channels. Force broadcasters to follow FCC rules and support DTV by requiring localism as the solution to re-transmission agreements. Best Regards, David J. Keefe
Chief Executive Officer
Atlantic Broadband

The Daily

Subscribe

Editor’s Note

Your next issue of Cablefax Daily will arrive Monday. Stay safe and enjoy

Read the Full Issue
The Skinny is delivered on Tuesday and focuses on the cable profession. You'll stay in the know on the headlines, topics and special issues you value most. Sign Up