NAB reconsiders digital must carry

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NAB is backing off its push for cable carriage of both analog and digital TV signals during the transition to digital and is focusing instead on gaining full carriage for TV stations' digital signals once the transition is completed, the board agreed on Thursday.

The National Association of Broadcasters' board of directors approved a new "statement of principals" that "directs the NAB staff to expeditiously pursue innovative solutions" so that all new digital TVs include DTV tuners and all digital TVs are fully interoperable with all cable systems. The statement also directs NAB staff to establish "secure, full signal carriage rights for broadcasters' DTV signals on cable and satellite systems."

"In accomplishing these objectives, NAB should aggressively seek new and innovative ideas including single- versus dual-carriage options," the statement reads.

Cable's public reaction was straightforward: "The cable industry believes that marketplace, not government-mandated, solutions consistently achieve the best results," an NCTA spokesman said. "We stand prepared to work with all parties, including the NAB, on consumer-driven solutions to the digital broadcast transition."

Behind the scenes, however, cable executives have been pooh-poohing broadcasters' new effort to get their all digital services carried on cable systems.

The statement was developed by the NAB digital television task force and approved by NAB's executive committee last week. NAB's television board of directors approved the final statement in a conference call Thursday morning.
For the past four years, NAB has been fighting hard to require cable operators to carry both their analog and digital TV signals, but Thursday's vote signals that NAB is choosing to back off that policy in search of a solution the government will be more likely to adopt.

Early this year, the FCC determined in a preliminary ruling that cable operators only were required to carry either broadcasters' digital or analog signal. On top of that, the FCC said cable operators only had to carry broadcasters' primary digital signal, not everything broadcasters' might choose to air on their 6 MHz of digital spectrum.

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