FCC Sets Issues for Aug. 22 Open Meeting

Viewability requirement for digital-TV stations on cable, what to do with wireless microphones now using 700-megahertz band on potential agenda.
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Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin circulated a full plate of issues for the commission's Aug. 22 open meeting, including an item on modifying cable-carriage requirements for digital-broadcast stations -- likely related to the administration of the FCC's material degradation requirement for digital-TV stations on cable after the DTV transition -- and another on a proposed rulemaking on what to do with wireless microphones now using the 700-megahertz band.

The FCC is reclaiming the 700-MHz spectrum -- channels 52-69 -- after the switch to digital and needs to figure out what to do with the licensed mikes used by broadcasters and others.


Martin said Monday he is proposing a freeze on any new licenses for microphones in that band as well as asking how the rules should be changed given the number of unlicensed mike users in that band as well.

David Donovan of the Association for Maximum Service Television said that microphone issue raises some "very important questions," adding that reclaiming that band will reduce the spectrum available for wireless mikes used by news reporters and newsrooms.

"This would appear to make it more difficult to place unlicensed devices on channels 21-51 since the demand for wireless-mike spectrum will increase on those channels," he said.

The FCC last fall required cable operators to provide a “viewable” TV-station signal to all of their customers. But just how they do that became a subject of debate and a request for waiver from smaller cable operators.


Martin said he was proposing that operators serving 2,500 subs or fewer and with limited capacity would get relief for three years from the requirement that they carry stations in HDTV. Martin also said that those small systems could not be owned by a larger operator--ones who reach in total more than 10% of subs nationwide.

The FCC released its agenda for the Aug. 22 meeting Monday. The agency is publicizing its agenda items three weeks in advance, with the chairman discussing them with reporters.

The chairman proposes, but it is up to a commission majority to dispose, so it will not be until one week before the meeting that the actual agenda comes out and it becomes clear which items will actually get a vote. But they could also be voted by the commissioners before the meeting, which is what Martin said he is hoping for.

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