Court Won't Block FCC Viewability Rule Decision
Denies broadcaster request for a stay pending resolution of appeal
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/24/2012 2:54:19 PM
On Aug. 24, the FCC's Media Bureau denied the request by Agape Church Inc., London Broadcasting Company, the National Association of Broadcasters and Una Vez Mas to stay the decision, which takes effect in December. The petitioners then sought a stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit until the court can hear a broadcaster challenge to the decision. The court denied a stay as well on Monday, saying only that the petitioners "have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review."
Those would include demonstrating the likelihood of winning the appeal and suffering serious harm if the stay were not granted.
Despite some last-minute lobbying by broadcasters, including religious broadcasters, the FCC in June voted to sunset the viewability rule, which means that, as of December, cable operators will no longer have to deliver dual analog and digital feeds of must-carry TV station signals to satisfy the FCC requirement that they be viewable to their subscribers. Instead, the FCC says that the no-cost and low-cost converter boxes cable operators offer will satisfy the still-important obligation to make must-carry stations accessible to viewers.
The order contains requirements that cable operators give their subs plenty of notice -- 90-days -- of the change, as well as warnings about cable operators raising the prices of those boxes. It also contains potential avenues of redress -- reinstating analog carriage -- if the FCC gets sufficient complaints about the sunset from viewer.
Since non-must-carry stations have already negotiated carriage as part of their deals, stations affected are smaller stations and independents that have to invoke must carry status to ensure carriage. They say that status would be threatened and that some viewers would forego the time or expense of getting the box to watch a handful of stations.
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