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Waxman, Rockefeller Urge Martin to Focus on DTV Transition

Dec 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The incoming chairmen of the Senate and House committees that oversee the Federal Communications Commission are urging its chairman, Kevin Martin, to devote his remaining days to the digital TV transition and to postpone FCC action on several controversial issues.
The warning from U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., comes as the FCC prepares to meet next week. Its agenda may include establishing new procedures for handling complaints from independent cable networks alleging cable system operators are discriminating in carriage or placement in favor of channels the systems own, as well as a proposal to require buyers of spectrum space to use some of that spectrum to provide free national broadband service.
“The most important challenge for the commission over the next nine weeks is to ensure the smoothest possible transition to digital television,” the legislators wrote. Rep. Waxman in January will become chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee while Sen. Rockefeller is slated to head the Senate Commerce Committee.
“At a time when serious questions are being raised about the transition readiness, it would be counterproductive for the FCC to consider unrelated items, especially complex and controversial items that the new Congress and new administration will have an interest in reviewing,” they said in a letter.
Hours after receiving the letter, Mr. Martin responded by canceling next week’s scheduled FCC meeting.
In a statement FCC spokesman Robert Kenny cited the letter.
“We received the letter from Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Waxman today and spoke with other offices. In light of the letter, it does not appear that there is consensus to move forward and the agenda meeting has been canceled.”
Mr, Kenny said that while the meeting is canceled, the proposals remain in circulation among commissioners and they could still choose to vote on the proposals even without a meeting.
Both of the issues have been controversial.
Mr. Martin wants the agency to speed its response to complaints from independent networks about discrimination by satellite and cable providers. Such a move could help the NFL, sports team owners and some new channels at the expense of channels fully or partly owned by cable systems.
The FCC is considering what to do about complaints from the NFL Network, WealthTV Network and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (which carries Baltimore and Washington Major League Baseball games) that their channels are being discriminated against by providers including Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
The spectrum proposal would set new rules for a government auction of additional spectrum. Buyers would have to use at least 25% of spectrum bought to provide free national wireless broadband service.
(5:45 p.m.: Updated with cancellation of meeting, Mr. Kenny’s statement)

16 Comments

  1. Here’s hoping the agenda also included reviving Martin’s plans to protect low power and class A from the upcoming digital transmission. The media fails to report that 80 percent of all television licensees will NOT be going digital on 2/17/09… assuming something doesn’t happen to derail it.

  2. This whole forced issue to digital TV has smacked of special interest dollars from day one.
    Some have been (and are) making amazing dollars as (“everybody has to do it”) fall out from the mandate by the FCC regarding HD-Digital broadcasting by February.
    The millions of viewers who do not understand, or are without the financial means to change even with the converter-rebate crap will be on the outs.
    Some wonderful execs have intimated off the record, words to the effect, “who cares, those folks don’t have money to spend, who needs them?”
    What has happened to the thinking in this country?
    Another 50 billion dollar swindle on Wall Street discovered today. The SEC was contacted repeatedly about extreemly questionable practices by the individual and nothing was done.
    The current Administration has been rittled with White Collar, tie wearing terrorists who have either de-regulated damn near everything, or just blatently stolen from any and everybody with no one willing, or empowered to cut them off at the knees.
    Millions will be without TV come Spring if we don’t put a halt to a total switch over.
    Peter Bright

  3. So glad to see I’m not the only voice in the wilderness, wondering how the broadcasting industry lost its bearings and forgot about its great legacy of public service. Now we’ve got a network chief talking about dumping affiliates and going to pay cable. Where are the William Paleys of the 21st century? Please — keep the BROAD in broadcasting! (And take my wife — please!)
    Mr. Dickens raises a salient point about trade journalism. In effect, the Feb. 17th “digital deadline” has been TOSSED OUT! And the number of stations choosing to continue analog broadcasting as long as the law allows will be closer to 100 percent.
    Once the Dems get settled in, they will recognize the folly of disenfranchising upwards of 10 million TV households that depend on OTA TV but will lose channels they can now receive — whether it’s due to the backlog in fulfilling coupon orders, or because the fragile DTV signals don’t extend to the outer bands of the footprint.
    Broadcast and cable execs have displayed a “let them eat cake” attitude, and the trades haven’t been nearly as aggressive as they should have been in reporting the unvarnished, unmassaged truth. (Good news for me, actually, as an internet columnist with a TV trade background).
    It’s so ironic — because, with the proper repeaters installed and with greater outreach to the elderly, Hispanics, the poor and the handicapped, over the air DTV could signal a “second coming” of broadcast TV — that is, if programming execs don’t sell out “free TV” and become a “let them eat cake” medium.
    For anyone who still needs convincing about delaying analog shut-off until the market is truly ready (and that will take a lot more than an additional month), get the real 4-1-1 here:
    http://www.nowpublic.com/world/u-s-tvs-digital-deadline-obama-eras-first-consumer-crisis

  4. This issue will do as many issue’s before the FCC has. It will be stalled and become old. The RBOC’S have so much money and power that to them another stall tactic is part of their budget.Look at some of the issue’s still pending before the FCC! The NST rate Compliance is one in which the RBOC coalition asked for a forty day extension to set and document the new NST Rates. Well twelve years later they still have a slew of Attorney’s fighting this. Even with the strength of several courts ruling against them as well as two Federal Appellate courts. Stop them as Judge Green did before they become one huge monopoly that we can not control. Fairness will allow growth and create new jobs. They use and abuse the system for their own personal gains.Allowing a level playing field will create new technology and assure we move ahead. If in fact a few companies control the Tel-Com market we will be at their mercy. Enforce the rules and allow them to play fairly. Profit?? Yes indeed they are entitled to a fair return as well as the smaller guys.

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