Late Friday, broadcasters sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission spelling out what version of its proposed digital-transition plan (the so-called Ferree plan) would pass muster with the industry.
Tops on their list of any plan for ending the transition and reclaiming analog spectrum is full digital cable carriage of all free services provided by broadcasters,including any free digital multicast channels.
The Ferree plan proposes to speed the transition by allowing cable digital signals converted to analog to count toward the 85% digital market-penetration threshold Congress has set for return of analog.
That means that rather than having to wait until 85% of TV households have at least one digital set before it reclaims analog spectrum for auction--which some predict could be a decade or more away--the government could reclaim it in half the time or less by defining that 85% as including TV households that receive a cable digital signal converted to analog, even though they would not be benefiting from the new higher-resolution, greater functionality service.
NAB and major broadcast groups argue that any cable conversion of digital broadcast signals to analog should occur at the home, not the cable head-end (the Ferree plan would allow downcoversion at the head-end).
Finally, the FCC should not authorize unlicensed devices in digital white spaces, and should make sure to allocate enough spectrum for broadcast tools such as wireless microphones and hand-held DTV cameras.
How does the cable industry feel about full digital carriage. No surprise there either, but in response to the broadcaster's pitch, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said in its own epistle: "The latest FCC filing by the broadcast industry is simply a recycled version of broadcasters' previous demands that cable operators be required by the Commission to carry half a dozen or more video channels per broadcast station rather than let multicast carriage be determined by market competition with other program networks."
In case we missed the point, NCTA concluded: "The broadcast industry's submission does nothing to advance the digital TV transition or promote a serious discussion about how to complete the transition."