Cable Nets Write Letter to FCC With Investigation Concerns

Worried analog-to-digital channel migrations inquiry might send impression moving channels violates FCC rules
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Executives from a half-dozen cable nets have written the FCC with their concerns about an investigation into operators' analog-to-digital channel migrations, according to a copy of the letter supplied to B&C.

The FCC has sent letters of inquiry to 13 companies asking for information related to complaints the FCC said it received from subscribers about channels being moved.

Sending the letter to FCC Chairman Martin and the other commissioners were respresentatives of The Gospel Music Channel, The Sportsmen's Channel, Bridges Network, The Africa Channel, AmericanLife TV Network, and Retirement Living TV.

They say they are concerned that the FCC inquiry might send the message that moving channels violates FCC rules and "may have the unintended effect of slowing the current analog-to-digital transition."

Cable operators say they need to free up channel space to add advanced services customers want and to make room for high definition broadcast channels they must carry. If they can't make that room, they might have to delete channels or delay launches, both of which could affect the programmers.

They also included a copy of one of the letters of inquiry addressed to top cable operators Comcast. In it, the FCC said that in addition to asking for data upfront, cable operators would have to proivde information on a quarterly basis until the investigation was completed. That ongoing requirement was of "particular concern," they said, as was the FCC's request for sensitive contract information.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has assured the operators that information would be protected, but the programmers in their letter want to make sure that the information, which includes per-sub fees paid by operators for programming--recieves "the highest level of confidential treatment available."

They closed by saying the investigation could have "unintended adverse impacts" on programming diversity, something Chairman Martin has been stumping for.

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