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Belo Lobbies to Delay DTV Decision

HDTV pioneer and multicast proponent Belo Corp. is asking the House and Senate Commerce Committees to stop the Federal Communications Commission from ruling on digital must-carry at its Feb. 10 meeting.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell is now said to have the three votes necessary to deny broadcasters both cable carriage of all their multicast digital channels and dual analog-digital must-carry during the transition to DTV.

In a letter to key Congress members, Belo Chairman Robert Dechard said that with Powell leaving and the FCC and commerce committees "reorganizing under new leadership," Congress should postpone a decision until a new FCC chairman is named.

Broadcasters need multicasting must-carry in order for those additional services to be viable, he argues.

"Just today," wrote Decherd on Jan. 26, "Belo's Texas Cable News aired live, and in their entirety, President Bush's press conference and Texas governor Perry's State of the State address; these are the kinds of programming choices that are available in a local multicasting environment where local television licensees can make choices that serve the public interest."

Decherd concludes: "I urge you to recommend to the FCC that it postpone action on this item and allow Congress and the new FCC chairman the opportunity to consider comprehensively the many significant issues that will impact the transition to digital television."