FCC To Vote On Low-Power Must-Carry Proposal

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says giving full-power status to some low-power stations, including must-carry rights, would boost diversity

The FCC has released the agenda for its Oct. 15 public meeting, and it includes a vote on giving some low-power TV stations full-power status, including must-carry rights.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had signaled his desire for a vote on the item at the meeting, if not sooner. But since it is a notice of proposed rulemaking rather than a final order, it is simply the next step toward adopting the chairman's plan, with a period for the public and industry to weigh in with comments on the proposal.

Martin told reporters two weeks ago that he wants to give class-A low-power-TV stations a chance to gain full-power status and all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

Among the responsibilities would be complying with minimum children's-programming requirements and other public-interest obligations. One of the key rights would be that cable operators would be required to carry them under the must-carry rules.

Martin said the proposal was an effort to boost diversity of voices, noting that almost one-third of the 500-plus class-A LPTVs are Spanish-language and saying, "I think this is something that will be very critical to some of those Spanish-language broadcasters throughout the country." The FCC estimated that 236 are low-power Spanish-language stations.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association opposes the proposal, calling it unnecessary and illegal.