Outgoing NCTA Chief Blasts NAB on Digital Carriage


The DTV must-carry battle continues to head up as the days grow short.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Robert Sachs Monday charged the National Association of Broadcasters with launching a misinformation campaign of "gross misstatements" meant to scare the public about the FCC Feb. 19 vote on cable and satellite carriage of TV stations' digital signal.

Rather than a rush to judgment, said NCTA President Robert Sachs Monday in a letter to members of Congress, the vote has, in fact, been pending for four years, and is a reconsideration of the FCC's 2001 decision denying full digital multicast must-carry. The Feb. 10 vote is widely expected to uphold that denial.

NCTA says that cable systems are already carrying digital signals from more than 500 stations, and points out that it has just made a deal to carry the digital signals of public broadcast stations.

"In short," says NCTA, "compelling digital broadcast content is being carried voluntarily today on cable, and more such programming is being offered every day."

What NAB wants, says Sachs, is "preferential treatment": mandatory carriage of half a digital dozen channels for every TV station, regardless of whether they are infomercials or home shopping channels or other of what NCTA calls "low value" content.

At the same time, says Sachs, "every other non-broadcast cable and satellite program network must vigorously compete for carriage of new and existing programming on the basis of the quality of that programming and its perceived value to consumers."

NAB responded in a statement: "The only misinformation campaign being waged is coming from NCTA. Cable gatekeepers are fighting against multicasting for one reason and one reason only: because a "pro-multicasting" ruling from the FCC would result in an explosion of free programming choices for consumers."