ABC Plugs Multicast Mandate at FCC

The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network has tossed its support behind requiring cable operators to carry digital-TV stations' multiple programming services.

ABC stepped up its campaign in a letter Thursday to Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell and the other four commissioners.

"As a large media company, ABC has enjoyed success in negotiating marketplace agreements for cable carriage of ABC HDTV and multicast services. However, we remain concerned that many of our affiliates may not be as successful in negotiating such arrangements," ABC station president Walter Liss wrote.

Liss said ABC's station in Fresno, Calif., has been multicasting three services, including repurposed local news and a local weather channel. ABC plans to replicate the multicast model to its stations in nine other markets "in the near future."

The letter also recounted ABC's efforts to provide consumers with a full slate of HDTV programming.

"Of course, since so many consumers receive their television service via cable, these HDTV and multicast incentives to speed the DTV transition will be effective only if cable operators provide these HDTV and multicast services to their subscribers," Liss added.

He concluded by noting that ABC's support for a multicast mandate was not intended to convey the company's support for cable carriage of broadcasters' analog and digital signals.

Cable operators and many programmers oppose a multicast mandate. MSOs argued that federal law requires them to carry only one digital service once analog signals have been turned off.