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Draft House Bill Wouldn’t Force Multicast Carriage

Oct 21, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Draft legislation circulated Friday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would require cable TV operators to carry both the analog and digital TV signals of broadcasters for five years after the DTV transition. But the House bill, according to sources, would not require cable TV operators to carry broadcasters’ DTV multicasts.

The legislation which was put out for industry comment, proved to be enough to win an endorsement from the cable TV industry, which has opposed dual-carriage. “We are willing to make this significant concession expressly to facilitate congressional action returning broadcasters’ analog spectrum for important uses like public safety and to facilitate the consumer transition,” said Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, in a statement.

Mr. McSlarrow also said the cable TV industry has agreed to pay for the costs of downconverting must-carry broadcasting signals from digital to analog so cable customers with analog-only TV sets will not need a separate converter box to watch broadcast signals. “We are pleased that this legislation rejects a multicasting mandate,” Mr. McSlarrow said. “We remain adamant that multicasting requirements are unconstitutional and not in the best interest of our customers, and we will continue to oppose them.”

The National Association of Broadcasters had no comment on the legislation, which also would set the DTV transition at Dec. 31, 2008, and earmark $1 billion for the acquisition of digital-to-analog converters. Under the measure, the dual-carriage obligation on cable applies only to systems with a capacity greater than 550 megahertz.

On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee approved on a 19-3 vote legislation that would set the DTV transition at April 7, 2009, and earmark $3 billion for the acquisition of digital-to-analog converters. Senate has yet to commit to a multicast-carriage requirement and other important issues related to the DTV transition.