The American Cable Association told the FCC Friday that the
public interest is best served by continuing to exempt small cable systems from
its requirement that cable operators transmit must-carry stations in HD if that
is the way they are delivered over the air.
The mandate dates back to the DTV transition of 2009, as
does the exemption. The FCC is currently deciding whether to extend that
mandate and the exemption, both of which it appears inclined to do.
The National Association of Broadcasters does not oppose the
exemption, but has asked that it be narrowed so that if a smaller cable
operator delivers any channel in HD, the exemption goes away.
NAB points out that Congress intended the HD carriage
mandate to prevent cable operators from favoring their own content by
materially degrading TV station content, and that if a cable operator has one
of more channel in HD, not carrying HD TV station signals would disadvantage
ACA says renewing the exemption does not turn on a legal
interpretation of the viewability rule, but on minimizing the impact of the
mandate on smaller operators, including the burdens of "increased costs;
disruption of channel lineups; and the undermining of the business case for
operating many small systems."
While ACA concedes that the number of systems relying on the
exemption has decreased, it says those still using it need it more than ever.
ACA also wants the FCC to permanently exempt small analog-only systems. It
points out that broadcasters who elect retrans and cable programmers
"commonly" grant analog-only systems permission to carry their
channels in analog.