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Fritts: Cable AWOL on DTV - Broadcasting & Cable

Fritts: Cable AWOL on DTV

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Never one to miss an opportunity to take a shot at cable, NAB President Eddie Fritts did just that in his state-of-the-industry address at the annual convention last week.

"The cable industry is missing at its post and absent without leave," he said. "Cable operators are carrying less than 13% of local DTV broadcast stations on the air today. At last count, only 107 of the 809 broadcast DTV stations were receiving cable carriage."

Federal law requires cable operators to carry the analog signal of any local TV stations that asks. NAB would like the operators to also carry broadcasters digital signals during the transition when stations are airing both analog and digital signals.

And, after the transition, when stations are airing DTV signals only, NAB would like a law or FCC rule requiring operators to carry the DTV signals in their entirety, even if they comprise several programming channels and data services.

"Broadcasters are under federal mandate to build DTV tuners," Fritts said. "Set manufacturers are under federal mandate to phase-in DTV tuners. And it is high time the cable industry be placed under federal mandate to carry local DTV broadcast signals."

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After an awesome 23-year run, NAB chief Eddie Fritts is about to step down. His record is awesome—but not flawless. He helped the industry shed onerous rules limiting the size and power of radio- and TV-station owners. At the end, however, he couldn't repair fissures that have divided broadcasters in fundamental ways.