The FCC has clarified that a must-carry TV station can
demand that a cable operator carry it on its previous analog frequency, but not
on its new digital channel.
That is because the FCC, to ensure that broadcasters could
maintain continuity of channels in the digital age, decided that a broadcaster
would no longer be identified by its radio frequency, which was changing with
digital repacking, but instead by its program and system information protocol,
or PSIP, which generally corresponds to its previous analog channel.
In dismissing a must-carry complaint by KSQA Topeka against
Cox, the FCC said on Friday that the TV station could not demand carriage on Ch.
12, its current DTV channel, but only on 22, its previous analog designation.
"The primary issue before us is whether KSQA has a
right to demand carriage on Channel 12 of Cox's cable system when its
over-the-air broadcast channel is 12, yet its PSIP number is 22," said the
FCC. Cox was carrying another station on ch.12 in September 2011 when KSQA
invoked its must-carry option, and didn't want to evict that station, CBS affiliate
WIBW, from the channel.
After some back and forth without resolution, KSQA filed the
complaint saying it was entitled to either 22 or 12. The FCC's Media Bureau
Friday said no dice.
"Under...our rules, KSQA's channel positioning choice
may attach only to its Major Channel Number as carried in its PSIP, namely
Channel 22, and KSQA is incorrect that it would also have a right to carriage
on Channel 12. Therefore its demand that it be carried on Channel 12 must be
KSQA has also filed a request for the FCC to waive the
channel 22 designation and substitute Ch. 12. The Media Bureau suggested it was
ready to deal with that request and have the issue resolved.
"Although we must dismiss KSQA's Complaint to be carried
on Channel 12," the bureau said, "we do so without prejudice to KSQA
renewing its carriage demand and, if necessary, filing a renewed carriage
complaint after its petition to change or delete its Major Channel Number 22 is
resolved. We are hopeful that a renewed complaint will not be necessary because
Cox will comply with its carriage obligations in full after this ambiguity in
KSQA's digital Major Channel Number is resolved."