Stevens Has Change of Heart on Must-Carry

Jun 8, 2006  •  Post A Comment

In a quick turnabout, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Thursday he approves of a plan by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin to hold an agency vote on a rule that would require cable TV operators to carry all of the programming streams from digital broadcast channels.

The lawmaker said Wednesday that the controversial carriage issue, which has been slated for a June 21 agency vote, should be addressed by Congress, not the agency.

“I would hope if it’s going to be done, it will be done by Congress, not by the FCC,” Sen. Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said Wednesday. “It’s too easy to change the FCC.” His remarks were widely interpreted as suggesting that the agency should hold off on a vote on a carriage obligation.

But in a follow-up conversation with reporters Thursday, Sen. Stevens said he later told Mr. Martin that his remarks had been misinterpreted and that he was fine with Mr. Martin’s plan to move on a rule.

“I hope they are going to be able to do it,” Sen. Stevens said.

Sen. Stevens said Congress also should legislate on the issue to resolve the issue permanently.

“It’s [the FCC’s] duty and I’m happy to see them do it,” said Sen. Stevens. “But people should realize that it’s going to be a regulation and it will be subject to

consideration by us when we get to the full consideration of the whole digital transition.”