The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said broadcasters' approach to the digital transition is "recycled" and a "distraction to the work at hand."
NCTA responded Tuesday to the National Association of Broadcasters' proposed plan for speeding the digital transition. Central to that plan is getting the FCC to require cable to carry any and all digital services it will broadcast.
In its own filing to the FCC, NCTA said NAB's plan was nothing new, but rather a "recycled version of their persistent efforts to impose dual multicast carriage requirements on cable operators. As NCTA has repeatedly shown, such requirements will simply burden the cable industry without brining the end of the transition anywhere closer."
NCTA says that since NAB is looking for carriage for all broadcasters, it would mean that stations that elect to negotiate payment from cable operators for carriage of their primary digital signal would still get mandated carriage of any multicast signal they offered.
NCTA says that would be a disencentive to quality digital fare. "[W]hile the affiliates suggest that mandatory cable carriage of their multicast signals would foster the creation and distribution of high quality programming, the opposite is true," NCTA's Dan Brenner wrote. "By sheltering them from the need to negotiate and compete in the market for carriage, a multicast carriage requirement would reduce the affiliates incentives to create the most attractive and compelling programming."
Cable and broadcast have been battling over this issue for years, but the war of words appears to be escalating as the FCC mulls its next move.
The NCTA letter was filed in Washington at about the same time that, across the country, NAB President Eddie Fritts was heating up the anti-cable rhetoric. In a speech to the NAB convention there, he called out Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and the "cable cartel" for not agreeing to carry broadcasters' full DTV signal. "Tear down that wall! Stop blocking consumer access to the best TV pictures the world has ever seen," he said, echoing Ronald Reagan's call to Gorbachev to dismantle the Berlin wall.