Not surprisingly, the National Association of Broadcasters was buoyed by the news that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is circulating a proposed rulemaking granting broadcasters multicast must-carry.
"We're encouraged by reports that Chairman Martin supports revisiting an issue that, if adopted, will bring more program choice to cable customers," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.
"It is NAB's longstanding position that DTV multicasting rules will result in an explosion in programming choices, including public-interest programming that has long been the hallmark of local broadcasting."
Broadcasters argue that they need mandatory cable carriage of all the free channels they can fit into their digital spectrum allotment if they want to be competitive in a multichannel world. Getting multicast must-carry has been a primary goal of the NAB.
Confirming an earlier FCC decision, the FCC under then-Chairman Michael Powell concluded in 2005 that Congress only meant to require cable to carry a digital duplicate of a broadcaster's analog signal.
The cable industry argues that multicast-must carry could hurt their own competitiveness in a world of expanding competition. If they have to carry all of a broadcaster's digital signals, cable operators argue, they will have less room for advanced services their customers want.
Again, not surprisingly, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association was advising the FCC to stay the course on multicasting.
"The FCC already has twice rejected a multicasting mandate, and no new evidence has been presented that justifies a different result," said NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz.
"In fact," he said, "working directly with local broadcasters, cable operators have added hundreds of digital broadcast channels to their lineups nationwide and have effectively implemented a privately-negotiated agreement with public television to ensure broad carriage of digital public TV stations across the country."