The FCC's Media Bureau: 'Limited' qualification for cable must-carry means nothing in satellite context

The FCC's Media Bureau says, flatly, that LPTVs have no must-carry rights to satellite TV carriage.

Full power TVs have limited must-carry rights--if a satellite carrier carries any station subject to the compulsory license, it must carry all. Some LPTVs have must-carry rights on cable. But no LPTV has any must carry rights on Dish or DirecTV.

That was the Media Bureau's message Thursday in denying both an LPTV request for carriage and for a declaratory ruling that LPTVs that qualify for carriage on cable should get similar carriage on satellite in the interests of parity.

Michael Karr, owner/operator of LPTV WVUX-LD Fairmont, W. Va., filed the petition and carriage request on Dish and DirecTV, pointing out the station had qualified for cable carriage, meeting the FCC's "very narrow circumstances" for such carriage, saying "there is no legitimate reason that cable providers and satellite carriers should be treated differently with respect to their carriage obligations."

The bureau saw the issue as simple. "WVUX-LD’s status as an LPTV station is fatal to its request for satellite mandatory carriage," it said flatly. "As DirecTV and Dish state in their opposition," it said, WVUX-LD’s claim that it is entitled to mandatory carriage rights on a satellite system is contrary to section 338(a)(1) of the Act and

The Commission’s implementing regulations, as well as 20 years of Commission precedent, all of which unambiguously establish that LPTV stations do not have mandatory carriage rights on a satellite provider’s system.

The bureau said it was clear WVUX has "absolutely no carriage rights on satellite providers, even if they meet the cable definition of a 'qualified' LPTV station," and that such "qualified" status "means nothing in the satellite carriage context."

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