DUAL MUST-CARRY: The FCC Rules
Under the FCC’s report and order, cable operators will be required from Feb. 18, 2009, to Feb. 17, 2012, to:
Carry a local broadcaster’s digital signal in analog and digital formats; or,
Carry the signal only in digital format, provided that all subscribers have the “necessary equipment” (digital set-top boxes) to view the broadcast content.
Carry the high-definition signal of broadcasters in high-definition format.
On TV-carriage, both the cable industry and FCC chairman Kevin Martin declared victory.
“Today, I think analog cable consumers were the big winner,” Martin said.
Martin’s stated goal was to protect millions of customers who used only analog TV sets to watch programs provided by their cable operators. The object was not to force them to lease digital set-top boxes in order to view local TV stations that rely on mandatory cable carriage rights, or must-carry, to get their programming to viewers. The FCC’s requirement takes effect when local stations are forced to broadcast all programming in digital form, starting at the end of Feb. 17, 2009.
Cable could claim victory because it forced Martin to dump a far more draconian digital-TV plan than the one adopted. Martin wanted perpetual dual carriage without the Feb. 17, 2012, sunset, which the FCC said it would reserve the right to extend.