FCC: RFD-TV Disqualified for Carriage on DBS Channels

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The FCC has concluded that satellite program distributor RFD-TV does not qualify as a nonprofit or noncommercial entity and thus cannot qualify for carriage on DBS channels set aside for public interest programming, at least while it continues to air a cattle auction show.

THe FCC granted a petition for declaratory ruling filed by competitor Farm Journal, which argued that RFD-TV was unfairly getting the protected set-aside status when it was in fact a commercial enterprise. Farm Journal had been joined by Media Access Project, which also asked the commission to declare RFD a commercial service.

The FCC in its ruling Monday said that RFD-TV did not qualify because of its carriage of a commercial livestock auction with which it has an ongoing relationship.

The FCC did not rule on various other shows Farm Journal alleged contained ads for for-profit ventures, but said it could still take those up "at a later date."

In April, the FCC asked for public comment on the request by agricultural media producer/distributor Farm Journal that the commission rule RFD-TV does not qualify as an educational programming supplier meeting the requirements for fulfilling satellite operators' FCC-mandated public-interest requirements.

Farm Journal, which distributes TV programs AgDay and U.S. Farm Report, filed a raft of supporting material with the FCC to back up its claim and asked for a declaratory ruling that RFD did not fit the bill.

RFD is a Nashville-based 24/7 programming service targeted to rural America and carried on DISH and DirecTV with programming that includes rural and agricultural news.

Satellite programmer DirecTV has said that it has gotten assurances from RFD that it would comply with FCC rules on educational programming suppliers, and has taken steps to ensure compliance.

DirecTV said it would require RFD to file quarterly reports affirming that its programming meets FCC requirements for educational set-asides, channels reserved for such programming. That includes RFD prescreening its programming.

Farm Journal asked the FCC to take steps to "punish and deter" the conduct.

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