Broadcasters "can make the case" for winning cable must-carry rights for TV stations’ multicast digital channels but only if they are subject to localism requirements for the their entire program stream, Federal Communications Commission member Jonathan Adelstein said Thursday.
"Broadcasters must serve the public interest and remain accountable to their local communities for all their programming," he told the Practicing Law Institute and the Federal Communications Bar. "We should establish comprehensive public interest obligations for the digital era."
Adelstein noted that newly relaxed media-ownership rules, which he opposed, give broadcasters the chance to air a tremendous number of channels in a market when combined with multicasting. "If triopolies are allowed by the courts, digital can expand three channels to up to eighteen," he said. That huge presence obligates broadcasters to be bound by specific rules for serving their communities. "Broadcasting is still a public privilege."
The FCC is expected to rule on digital carriage rights early next year. Adelstein and fellow Democrat Michael Copps are balking at providing crucial votes to multicast must-carry unless public interest obligations are included.