ACA: Small Cable Operators Can't Match NCTA’s Dual-Must-Carry Pledge

American Cable Association Cites Capacity Constraints, Costs

Small cable operators say they can't match the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's pledge to carry must-carry TV stations in analog and digital after the Feb. 17, 2009, digital-TV transition date if some cable programmers succeed in getting a Federal Communications Commission rule to that effect overturned.

A group of programmers led by C-SPAN sued to have the rule thrown out, arguing that it violates their rights and exceeds commission authority. The NCTA had essentially negotiated the three-year carriage rule, and it said Tuesday that it would abide by the rule whether or not the court threw it out.

"Our operators can't make that commitment," said Ross Lieberman, vice president of government affairs for the American Cable Association. He said the reason was capacity constraints and the cost of complying with the law.

"Our members couldn't do that even if they wanted to." And they do want to, he added. "In terms of 'viewability,’ we are all in favor of ensuring that the programming is available. It's the cost and capacity burden of having to comply with the dual-carriage obligation."