FCC Ruling Keeps Local Broadcast Stations on Analog Cable After Digital Transition
The Federal Communications Commission late Tuesday unanimously adopted rules designed to prevent analog-only cable subscribers from losing their local TV stations’ signals for three years after the switch to digital TV occurs Feb. 17, 2009.
The FCC estimates some 40 million TV homes, approximately 35 percent of the country’s TV universe, are analog-only cable subscribers.
Required by law to make local broadcasters’ primary signals viewable by all their subscribers, cable operators will be able to choose to either transmit the digital signal in analog format or assure that all subscribers have the equipment necessary to view the digital signal.
The ruling does allow cable operators with small subscriber bases or limited bandwidth capacity to seek waivers from the dual carriage requirement.
However, cable operators must make sure picture quality for the local broadcasters’ signals is at least as good as that of any other programming carried on the system.
The chief lobbying organizations for the cable and broadcasting industries saluted the ruling.
“I want to thank each member of the FCC for engaging so constructively and fairly with our industry,” Kyle McSlarrow, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president-CEO, said in a statement. He noted the FCC ruling essentially adopted the voluntary plan for three years of dual carriage put forward by the cable industry.
National Association of Broadcasters Executive VP Dennis Wharton said the FCC ruling will protect analog cable subscribers from losing diverse niche programming.
"We also salute the FCC for protecting consumers against material degradation by cable operators,” Mr. Wharton said.