The National Religious Broadcasters association is opposing a draft DTV bill floated by House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton. In letter to Barton June 10, NRB President Frank Wright said his members had three problems with the bil as drafted, which were essentially one change and two omissions.
First, a defacto "dual carriage" provision that would force most cable operators to carry both analog and and digital version of TV station signals must extend to 2013 at a minimum, NRB said. The current bill gives the FCC discretion to end the dual-carriage provision sooner.
Second, Must Carry: Wright said the bill's failure to require that cable operators' carry each of the six or so multicast program streams that can be squeezed into a digital channel is a big detriment to religious TV stations. "Without multicasting, the carriage opportunities for religious programming are dramatically reduced going forward and an important voice in our cultural dialogue is marginalized."
Third, Wright said a federal subsidy is a must. The subsidy would help Americans who continue relying on analog televisions buy set-top converters necessary to keep their old sets working in the all-digital era. "The loss of these viewers would have a significant adverse impact on our programs," he wrote.
NRB represents TV and radio stations that air programming aimed at evangelical Christians, a key constituency for Barton and other GOP leaders on Capitol Hill.
Barton has floated DTV legislation aimed at accelerating the deadline for all-digital TV from today's open-ended law to Dec. 31, 2008. The bill is only a draft because he couldn't come to agreement wit Democratic leadership over several issues, including must-carry and a subsidy.