Powell Disinclined to Multicast Must-Carry


Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell told the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday that he is not inclined to give broadcasters multicast must-carry, nor, he said, is there any consensus among the other commissioners to change the agency's interpretation of what constitutes a broadcaster's primary digital signal.

That answer came in response to a question--during a hearing on public safety spectrum--on whether granting multicast must-carry would speed the transition to digital and thus the reclamation of spectrum for public safety uses.

When asked whether he suppported multicast must-carry, Powell shot back that the suggestion that the FCC has not already decided the issue is "absolutely false."
Powell pointed out that it was the commission of 2001, of which he was a member, that came to the conclusion that Congress did not intend broadcasters to be entitled to multicast must-carry, though adding that it is a different commission, with the exception of himself, that could come up with a different decision on reconsideration.

For his part, though, Powell said he was not sure that multicasting would necessarily be an "advantage" to the transition, adding that some argue it might even retard it. Powell also said he had "serious constitutional questions" about digital must-carry beyond the primary signal as the 2001 FCC defined it.