ACA Chairman: HDTV Exemption Gets to Root of Capacity Issue
Patrick Knorr Happy with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin's Proposal
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/9/2008 8:16:00 PM
American Cable Association chairman Patrick Knorr told C-SPAN Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to exempt smaller cable operators from a 2001 HDTV TV-station-carriage obligation gets to the root of the capacity issues that prompted the ACA to seek a waiver of the FCC's September 2007 dual-carriage requirement.
In an interview for C-SPAN's The Communicators series, Knorr praised Martin's announcement at the ACA's convention in Washington, D.C., Tuesday that he had proposed to the other commissioners giving those smaller cable operators an exemption from a 2001 requirement to carry TV stations' HDTV signals in HD.
Knorr said that without the exemption, the cost and capacity issues could have put some small operators out of business, forced to pay $100,000 to accommodate a few-hundred viewers.
He added that the issue went beyond video service to broadband in smaller markets -- an issue near and dear to the chairman's agenda. "One of the most important providers of broadband to many small communities are cable providers," he said. If they can't affort to provide video service, they won't be able to afford to provide broadband.
"It was a very important public policy decision," Knorr said. While the ACA has asked for a waiver from the FCC's September dual-carriage rules, Knorr said the HDTV exemption got to the "root cause" of the capacity problem that the dual-carriage exemption request was addressing.
If the cable industry is smart, it will say "thanks, but no thanks" to
the chairman's seemingly generous offer.
Why? Because once older cable subscribers realize they can
receive superior-quality HDTV signals over the air, some of them
who signed up "just for the reception" are sure to churn off cable.
Dropping HDTV broadcast channels simply gives "on the margin"
subscribers one more reason to resurrect the roof-top antenna.
The cable industry already has much of the general public
believing that they must cable to get any HDTV at all -- and
broadcasters haven't done enough to correct that self-serving
myth. The DTV advertising campaign has reinforced this
erroneous belief with the spot in which an elderly woman states
flatly in one sentence that analog TVs "won't work" after next
February... after stating that sets hooked up to cable "will work
just fine." She goes on to utter an unexplained reference to
"converter boxes." But the script already has left the
No broadcast HDTV on cable is not "just fine." It''s substandard
pay TV not worth paying for. The whole thing reminds me of the
cable industry's attempt back in the '80s to charge extra for
stereo sound -- another example of short-sighted marketing. It
didn't take long for stereo sound to become a necessary
component of the medium. The same thing is sure to happen
Why not curb the coming HDTV-spawned churn by making
broadcast HDTV signals a no extra charge BENEFIT of cable --
rather than another reason besides the sagging economy for
subscribers to pull the plug?
Victor Livingston - 4/9/2008 9:13:00 PM EDT
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