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Paxson Asks Court to Step In on Digital Must-Carry

Aug 31, 2004  •  Post A Comment

In an effort to force the Federal Communications Commission to set final ground rules for the carriage of the broadcasting industry’s digital TV signals on cable, Paxson Communications has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to intervene. “It appears that only the intervention of this court can pry loose a decision by the FCC,” Paxson said in an Aug. 27 writ of mandamus.

To the consternation of many broadcasters, the FCC has been debating the carriage issue for six years. At least according to some broadcasters, the agency has been ducking resolution of an issue that broadcasters insist is critical to spurring the digital transition. In its filing with the court, Paxson said the central unresolved issue is whether cable operators should be required to carry all of a broadcaster’s multicast signals during and after the transition, a proposal that the cable TV industry vehemently opposes.

Though the FCC requires broadcasters to air digital programming, Paxson said few viewers are able to see it because cable operators “almost uniformly” are refusing to carry the programming. “As a result, broadcasters have little incentive to expand their digital programming and viewers have even less incentive to purchase digital television sets that can receive digital signals,” said Paxson, citing factors that many broadcasters contend have been impeding the transition.

“This trend would be reversed if digital must-carry were adopted, as broadcasters would vastly expand their digital offerings, prompting greater demand for digital sets by consumers, which in turn would drive down the prices of those sets, thereby spurring even greater demand,” Paxson added.

Paxson asked that the court require FCC action within 30 days of a court order on the subject.