The Senate's top Republican, Minority Leader Trent Lott, said cable companies
must carry broadcasters' multiple digital signals.
The Mississippi lawmaker is the highest-ranking member on Capitol Hill to
call for digital-carriage rights beyond the one signal long required for analog
Without full carriage rights for local and independent broadcasters, "the
constructive and positive programming they offer will be highly diluted as
a percentage of total channels available on digital-cable systems," wrote Lott
and Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, chairman of the Senate GOP policy committee, in a
Oct. 11 letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell.
The senators asked Powell for his "thoughts" on multicast carriage and for
suggested legislative or regulatory changes needed to ensure that cable
companies will be required to carry every station's entire 6-megahertz capacity.
The senators' position mirrors arguments by the National Association of
Broadcasters, and it was praised by Religious Voices in Broadcasting, members
of which include Christian TV stations.
Previously, House Commerce Committee leaders Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John
Dingell (D-Mich.) authored draft digital-TV legislation that left multicast-cable-carriage rights unaddressed. Tauzin himself, however, has said cable must carry more than one broadcast channel to justify the expense of buying digital TV sets. That idea, however, got mixed reviews from fellow
committee members. The cable industry is dead-set against any expansion of
broadcasters' carriage rights.