Broadcasters ask for new look at must-carry

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A group of broadcasters is making a novel bid to revive prospects for TV
stations' digital-carriage rights on cable systems.

Attorneys for several station groups in mid-January asked the Federal
Communications Commission about holding oral arguments on the industry's bid to
win carriage rights for both analog and digital signals during the transition to
digital TV.

They told the commission a decision issued under a previous lineup of
commissioners was based on a stale two-year-old record and must be refreshed
with up-to-date information.

Last year, the commission, led by ex-chairman William Kennard, concluded that
only a station's 'primary signal,' either analog or digital, was entitled to
carriage.

Although holding oral arguments on a rulemaking would be an unusual step,
Washington, D.C.-based lawyer Ellen Goodman reminded the FCC that it routinely
held proceedings on proposals more than two decades ago.

On behalf of the broadcasters, Goodman explained to FCC Cable Services Bureau
staffers that the digital must-carry issue turns primarily on 'purely legal
issues' that are more appropriate for a judicatory-style hearing.

Goodman stressed that the idea was not a formal proposal, but simply an idea
that some broadcasters wanted the commission and the rest of the industry to
consider.

Broadcasters contended that they cannot attract the advertising support
necessary to make digital TV a success unless they are guaranteed both analog
and digital carriage.

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