Stevens Pitches 'Public Interest' Must-Carry


Senate Commerce committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has told the FCC he believes it should grant multicasting must-carry to any broadcast digital channel providing public interest programming.

According to a committee staffer, that includes government proceedings, but also should include the local news, information, and weather channels that broadcasters have been arguing are threatened by an FCC decision denying multicast must-carry.

"Stevens believes there is high interest in the programming," said the staffer, having seen such interest in the debate over the ownership rules

Stevens has not asked the FCC to delay the decision, however, as broadcaster Belo requested in a letter last week, said the committee staffer.

The FCC is scheduled to vote Feb. 10, and many expect it to deny such carriage.

Stevens conveyed his preference for "public interest" must carry through his staffers to FCC staffers.

Belo Chairman/CEO Robert Decherd said he was pleased that Stevens was raising the issue with the commission, but suggested that "implementing the concept is complex and fraught with the kind of interpretive disagreements that we have over indecency."

"Are MSOs going to add and subtract bandwidth depending on what programming is airing at any given time? I think, realistically, you have to provide bandwidth that will enable us to deliver and control all of the spectrum licensed to us, or not."