In Depth

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.

(Editor: Horowitz)

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Comments 27

KyL416

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Now here's the problem, most local network stations have their primary channel in HD, the only version that the cable companies carry digitally is the HD channel, and you can't get the HD signal with out an HD set as the SD settops don't recieve HD signals and downconvert them. So unless the cable companies that promise to have digital in every home start distributing only HD boxes, or decide to also carry a downconverted version, you're still screwed.

Andy S.

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Read it again:

"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 key phrase there is "required by law." That means they'll have to do it. The only potential snag is what will happen three years out, but by then hopefully a more permanent solution will be found. I guarantee this: no politician wants to incur the wrath of Americans deprived of their television. They'll figure out some way to make it happen, even if it means that taxpayers ultimately foot the bill.

aaronibus62

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Andy, the sad truth is that a small number of Americans are deprived of (most) television because they live in sparsely populated areas with rugged terrain that doesn't allow the few scant local signals to reach them.
My mother-in-law in north central West Virginia should have over-the-air access to all 3 of her local channels.. but unfortunately, she can only get her area NBC affiliate with a good signal. The local CBS affiliate is a VHF-low channel (5) that's highly interfered with by electronics and mountains, and the same mountains KO her FOX affiliate on ch. 46. The NBC affiliate operates on Ch. 12. Needless to say, the VHF-high band offers the best reception. Kinda mirrors my hilly Massachusetts neighborhood for folks without cable.
A shame there isn't a way to create a free bare bones antenna basic cable service for everyone. If
we had to pay an annual license like folks do in Canada and the UK, it'd be worth it to ensure both analog and HDTV for everyone.

One last thought... I'd rather see all local TV delivered to all by cable. Wouldn't it be cheaper for tradtional stations to pay into a universally free basic cable system than wasting energy on
high powered transmitters? Of course, it'd probably fail under some adverse weather conditions..... that's why there's radio for a backup! (really?):)
for everyone.

Jim Miars

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What a bunch of Democrats!!!! If someone wants TV signals, they should be allowed to either subscribe to cable, get a dish, or MOVE to an area that is serviced. Let them get PBS off the air, we all pay through the nose for that already, even those of us (the majority) that never watch it. Just because someone CHOOSES to live out in the sticks, it shouldn't be something all of us should have to pay for to correct!

Jim Troy

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I haven't seen the following mentioned, wondering if anyone knows how this will be handled: Digital network TV is mostly HD wide-screen, so an analog conversion (as now done by networks) must select a narrower portion of the wide picture for presentation on old sets. Either that or they must center the wide screen adding a blank portion top and bottom on the old narrow screen sets as TCM does with wide movies. Also not mentioned are the non-network cable channels that are not digital, such as TCM, CNN, Fox News et al. I suppose all these can continue to be provided as they are now.

James

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I currently have only an outside antenna. I believe that my televisions are digital/analog units. When the change takes place what will I need to do to receive the digital signals. Will my current antenna work? Is the standard coax cable capable of carrying the digital signal?

e. whitney

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ONLY if those various TV sets were purchased within the
last 14-16 months will they display after next Feb..

Older TVs did NOT have an internal digital tuner - look in your TVs manual for "ATSC/QAM/HTSC" ... if NOT there or listed in the "Specs", you will need one of the Federal Boxes.

Yes, the current antenna + coax cable will continue to work IF your TV now gets channels above # 13.

Our O.T.A. in HD is already available - you sholud be getting it NOW.

Robert Danks

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You people have to be low IQ to even think
that the garbage on TV is worth watching.
With a few exceptions. But then you have been
through the brain dead US american system.

RD

andy

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I'm still a bit confused; I gather that the cable companies are required to continue sending out local broadcast stations' signals in the analog (cable) format, but what about all the other channels that are currently viewable on basic analog cable?

These would include CNN, TCM, ESPN, HGTV, et cetera. Will the cable companies continue to send these channels out in analog format as well, or will they make only the local channels viewable in analog?

It seems that this would obviate the purpose of any individual paying for analog cable in the first place, which ultimately would mean that there was no point in the goverment mandate that the channels be broadcast in analog!

Steve

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What is the big deal?. I thought that ever since they started announcung all this digital transition stuff that ALL current analog signals would be replaced with digital. But that's not what happened. We still have to put up with the crappy poor quality analog signals as before, just because you have cable so what. I thought that ALL the cable channels that you are currently watching in the crappy analog signal would be replaced with digital. Or did miss something.

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