Scuttle in DC is that FCC chmn Kevin Martin may be trying to revisit multicast must-carry. Details are slim, but some rumblings include a proposal applying only to minority and religious broadcasters or a provision that would extend multicast must carry to broadcasters that have real content to fill the bandwidth (ie, not a bunch of infomercials). Under one scenario, broadcasters could even lease out their multicast streams to third-party content providers. Martin’s attempt to push through multicast must-carry last year failed because he couldn’t get fellow Republican Robert McDowell on his side. Multicast must-carry would require cable operators to pass through the multicast streams of every must-carry station, which could mean that cable operators would be carrying 6 signals per station. The FCC’s Dems might possibly be swayed if an order included public interest obligations, something broadcasters have resisted. Late last month, the CBS Stations Affil Group met with Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein, Deborah Taylor Tate and McDowell to push the need for multicast must carry, arguing that relying on voluntary carriage by cable ops is insufficient for multicast programming to survive. Viacom went to the FCC last week. Now that it’s split from CBS, the company was free to speak out against multicast must-carry, arguing that such a mandate would harm program diversity and disturb the competitive market. Despite the renewed multicast buzz, many continue to believe it’s a dead horse that won’t be revived. Another seemingly dead horse getting increasing attention is a la carte. Concerned that Martin would use this month’s Sen Commerce meeting as another forum to push a la carte, programmers sent a letter to cmte members reiterating their opposition to mandated per channel offerings. "Organizations ranging from the NAACP to the Old Time Gospel Hour to the National Organization for Women to scores of local elected officials representing minority constituencies spoke with a shared voice to express their concern that a la carte pricing regulations would threaten the viability of niche programmers and fledgling networks," said the letter, signed by Oxygen, TV One, Inspiration Nets and Si TV. A similar letter is expected to be sent before Thurs’ House Telecom hearing on FCC oversight.

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