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NCTA, APTS Make Digital Carriage Deal

Jan 31, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Giving public broadcasters a leg up in their transition to digital TV, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Association of Public Television Stations on Monday announced an agreement under which many public TV stations will get up to four of their digital programming streams carried by local cable operators.

The deal is expected to be ratified shortly by many NCTA members and public television stations. High-definition television-ready cable operators that sign on to the deal will carry both the digital and analog signals of at least one public television station in their markets during the transition to digital.

The participating cable systems will carry up to four of the digital streams of all qualified public TV stations in their communities after the digital transition.

John Lawson, APTS president and CEO, said that under the 10-year agreement, the association will immediately stop lobbying for legislation or regulation that would require cable to carry the digital signals of broadcasters, a move that is expected to take some of the steam out of the efforts of commercial broadcasters to win DTV carriage rules.

“The agreement gives public broadcasters and cable operators alike the ability to make long-term business plans without the uncertainties, litigation and costs that often accompany legislation and regulation,” said Robert Sachs, NCTA president and CEO, during a briefing for reporters.

The National Association of Broadcasters responded in a statement: “Because of government underwriting of PBS, it’s easy to see why the cable industry was motivated to reach this tentative agreement.

“By NCTA’s own admission, cable gatekeepers are blocking consumer access to the digital and high-definition signals of more than two-thirds of all local television stations. We would hope that NCTA and its members would reconsider their hard-line position and use the PBS agreement as a template for negotiating carriage of commercial DTV programming.”