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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
FCC ADOPTS RULES FOR CABLE CARRIAGE OF DIGITAL TV SIGNALS
Washington, DC – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted rules related to the cable carriage of digital broadcast television signals. In addition to resolving a number of technical and legal matters, the FCC’s action clarifies that a digital-only TV station, commercial or non-commercial, can immediately assert its right to carriage on a local cable system. The FCC also said that a TV station that returns its analog spectrum and converts to digital operations must be carried by local cable systems.
This action is one of a series of steps to facilitate the transition from analog to digital television broadcasting. This transition will ultimately expand consumer choice of video programming and other services. The transition from analog to digital will allow for more efficient use of the spectrum that will permit new communications and video services in parts of the spectrum returned to the FCC for auction to new competitive providers.
The FCC’s Report and Order resolves issues related to the cable carriage of digital broadcast signals including retransmission consent; channel capacity; signal quality; scope of signal carriage; material degradation; set-top box availability; channel location; market modifications; digital signal carriage on PEG channels (public, educational, government access channels); complaints and enforcement; subscriber notification; program exclusivity; and tiers and rates. Based on the current record, the Report and Order finds that for a digital-TV station, the “primary video” that is entitled to mandatory carriage includes a single programming stream and other program-related content. The Commission issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to define the scope of “program-related.”
Regarding the issue of whether a local TV station may assert a right to carriage for both its analog and digital signals (“dual carriage”), the Report and Order tentatively concludes that, based on the existing record, such a requirement appears to burden cable operators’ First Amendment interests more than is necessary to further a substantial governmental interest. The FNPRM seeks further comment on this and a number of other issues necessary to develop the record in this proceeding.
The FNPRM asks several questions related to developments in the digital television marketplace, the answers to which will help determine whether a dual carriage requirement could survive constitutional scrutiny under the First Amendment. In addition, in conjunction with the requirement that cable operators carry material that is associated with the primary video stream, the FNPRM seeks comment on the proper scope of program related content in this context. For example, the FNPRM asks if “educational” program streams broadcast by noncommercial stations should qualify as “program related” in light of statutory language that applies specifically to noncommercial stations.
The FNPRM also raises questions concerning the applicability of the rules adopted in the Report and Order to satellite carriers under the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999.
In conjunction with the FNPRM, the Cable Services Bureau will survey cable operators to ascertain current and future system capacity and to gather information about retransmission consent agreements with broadcasters that include carriage of digital signals.
A summary of these issues is attached to this news release.
Action by the Commission, January 18, 2001, by Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 01-22). Chairman Kennard, Commissioners Ness and Furchtgott-Roth concurring in part and dissenting in part and issuing separate statements; Commissioner Powell issuing a separate statement and Commissioner Tristani dissenting and issuing a statement.
Cable Services Bureau contact: Deborah Klein, Eloise Gore at (202) 418-7200. TTY: (202) 418-7172