Rehr: FCC Should Make Must-Carry Call

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Saying he was both "disturbed" and "confused" by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton's letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin last week opposing digital multicast must-carry, National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr wrote Martin and the other commissioners Monday to try and "correct the record."

Barton, along with House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton, had asked Martin not to reverse an earlier decision confining DTV must-carry to a single channel, saying he would be straying into Congress' territory and that the commission was right the first two times when it found that what Congress meant in its DTV must-carry mandate was one channel, not the several channels broadcasters can fit in their DTV spectrum.

Rehr argued that there is no statutory barrier to "full" digital must-carry, pointing out that the FCC itself has said that the analog must-carry regime does not directly translate to digital and that Congress "did not expressly compel a particular result...[Rehr quoting from an FCC report]." He also said that independent programmers will not suffer from full carriage because broadcasters will need new shows to fill their new channels.

Rehr asked Barton to let the FCC make the call, "as the expert agency...in the best position to resolve the issue in a manner that will serve the public interest."

Barton last week read the Martin move as "usurping" Congressional power, an interpretation not shared by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, though Stevens thought the DTV must-carry decision would be ultimately Congress' to make rather than leaving it to the changing tides (our word, not his) of administrative orders.

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