Three More Years! FCC Wants to Extend Cable's Viewability Mandates

Also proposes extending small operator waiver of HD pass-through mandate
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

The FCC on Tuesday suggested it should extend its
cable analog carriage mandate for another three years, and more definitively
proposed extending its waiver of the HD carriage mandate for smaller cable
operators for three more years as well.

That
came in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and declaratory order released by the
FCC last Friday (Feb. 10). The order part was to clarify that the current three-year mandate
and waiver sunsets on June 12, 2012, which is three years from the broadcast
DTV transition date, not Feb. 17, 2012, which is three years from the original
DTV transition date before it was moved by Congress.

In
the rulemaking proposal, the FCC is asking whether it should extend the mandate
that cable operators deliver all TV stations' digital signals in analog format
to analog customers or, alternatively, make sure all its customers have the
equipment to view a digital signal.

It
may be in the form of a question, but the FCC signaled in its rulemaking
proposal that it was pretty sure of the answer. "The available market
evidence seems to indicate that the viewability requirements remain important
to consumers."

To
help make its case, the FCC cited National Cable & Telecommunications
Association data showing that as of the third quarter of 2011, there were still
more than 12 million analog cable-only households, and that the switch from
analog to digital cable had slowed since the DTV transition.

It
also suggested the rule was a case of "no harm, no foul." "We
have not received any complaints under this rule, nor have we received any
requests to waive it, from cable systems large or small," the commission
said. "This speaks well of the compliance efforts of operators. It also
seems to indicate that the burden of compliance has been relatively minimal and
that the actual costs of compliance have likely not been onerous."

As
for the waiver for smaller cable operators, the FCC was even more definitive,
sort of. "Given the apparent widespread reliance of small cable operators
on the HD exemption," it said. "We propose to extend it for an
additional three years," then added: "[B]ut ask whether this should
be the final extension."

That
is a waiver of the DTV-related viewability mandate, a 1997 prohibition on
material degradation of the broadcast signal that requires cable operators to
deliver broadcasters' HD signals in HD to all their customers, whether or not
they get cable channels in HD.

Commenters
have until 25 days after the FCC proposal is published in the Federal Register,
or probably about five weeks from now (Feb. 14). Reply comments are due 10 days
after that.

Related