Multicast must-carry keeps popping up at the FCC, but so far, it has gotten nowhere. Even though FCC chmn Kevin Martin’s multicast desires have been knocked down a few times, no one should get overly confident that the issue is dead, Fleischman & Harding cable attorney Seth Davidson warned during Cable360.net’s regulatory Webinar Wed. Word is that one of the early versions of the broadcast localism item on Tues’ agenda had the FCC again seeking comment on multicast must carry, which would require cable ops to carry all of a must-carry broadcaster’s digital streams. “Fortunately for the cable industry, my understanding is that the rest of the commissioners balked at that,” said Davidson. On Tues, NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow expressed pleasure that a majority again rejected a plan to consider a multicast must carry mandate. “Consumers will be better served if we could all focus on getting ready for the digital broadcast transition instead of repeatedly having to reject stale ideas that would harm consumers, undermine the digital transition and violate the Constitution,” he said. But don’t count on this issue sleeping with the fishes. As Effros Comm’s Steve Effros reminded participants, “nothing’s ever really dead” at the Commission. While Robert McDowell seems unlikely to vote for multicast must-carry and Deborah Taylor Tate seems uncertain, Martin may be able to get the 2 Dems on his side. Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps have repeatedly said they would consider multicast must-carry if broadcasters got real public interest obligations. Sounds like another regulatory retread to keep an eye on in ’08. — As for this week’s decision to reinstitute a 30% ownership cap for cable, NCTA’s Dan Brenner repeated that it seems like it will be difficult for the FCC to justify it. With no order out yet, the industry will just have to wait to see how the Commission supports the cap. With Comcast at 27%, there shouldn’t be any immediate issues. Sanford Bernstein’s Craig Moffett wrote in a research note Wed that although the 30% cap doesn’t apply to DBS operators, its existence could “provide yet another hurdle to any eventual merger plan for satellite operators.” That is, if they ever actually decide to try and merge. If XM and Sirius merger is approved, look for renewed speculation on a DISH-DirecTV combo, Bernstein predicted.

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