With some likely in bed before the FCC‘s open meeting ended Tues night, the multichannel world awoke Wed to the news that cable had prevailed and defeated FCC chmn Kevin Martin‘s plan to force operators to carry must-carry stations’ analog and digital signals until a system becomes completely digital. The meeting started 11 hours late, at about 8:30pm ET. During a call with reporters Wed, NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow declined to take reporters’ bait and disparage Martin. “I think every office, including the chairman’s office, dealt with this constructively and fairly,” he said. “It was a 5-0 decision. Obviously, the chairman was critical to an outcome like this.” However, Martin’s statement on the order signaled some sour grapes. “If the cable companies had their way, you, your mother and father, or your next door neighbor could go to sleep one night after watching their favorite channel and wake up the next morning to a dark fuzzy screen. This is because the cable operators believe that it is appropriate for them to choose which stations analog cable customers should be able watch,” Martin said. Ironically, the rules the FCC adopted—that operators must carry digital and analog must-carry signals for 3 years starting Feb 18, 2009—come from a voluntary proposal put forth by the cable industry. McSlarrow reacted to Martin’s statement by saying that cable has made “very clear” to the FCC and Congress that such a scenario won’t happen. NAB, which had hoped for permanent dual carriage, applauded the FCC’s move but couldn’t resist a cable jab. “NAB applauds the FCC for crafting a solution that prevents cable gatekeepers from discriminating against niche and minority TV stations that play a vital role in the fabric of American society,” a spokesman said. Cable also prevailed in nixing language in Martin’s proposal (and supported by NAB) that would have required operators to carry all of a broadcaster’s bits—something that would prevent signal compression or multiplexing. The FCC could opt to extend the rules beyond 2012 when it reviews them in their 3rd year of existence.

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