Skip to main content

Court Won't Block FCC Viewability Rule Decision

A Federal Appeals Court has dismissed a broadcaster petition
to stay the FCC's viewability rule order.

On Aug. 24, the FCC's Media Bureau denied the request by
Agape Church Inc., London Broadcasting Company, the National Association of
Broadcasters and Una Vez Mas to stay the decision, which takes effect in
December. The petitioners then sought a stay in the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the D.C. Circuit until the court can hear a broadcaster challenge to the
decision. The court denied a stay as well on Monday, saying only that the
petitioners "have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay
pending court review."

Those would include demonstrating the likelihood of winning
the appeal and suffering serious harm if the stay were not granted.

Despite some last-minute lobbying by broadcasters, including
religious broadcasters, the FCC in June voted to sunset the viewability rule,
which means that, as of December, cable operators will no longer have to
deliver dual analog and digital feeds of must-carry TV station signals to
satisfy the FCC requirement that they be viewable to their subscribers.
Instead, the FCC says that the no-cost and low-cost converter boxes cable
operators offer will satisfy the still-important obligation to make must-carry
stations accessible to viewers.

The order contains requirements that cable operators give
their subs plenty of notice -- 90-days -- of the change, as well as warnings
about cable operators raising the prices of those boxes. It also contains
potential avenues of redress -- reinstating analog carriage -- if the FCC gets
sufficient complaints about the sunset from viewer.

Since non-must-carry stations have already negotiated
carriage as part of their deals, stations affected are smaller stations and
independents that have to invoke must carry status to ensure carriage. Theysay that status would be threatened and that some viewers would forego the
time or expense of getting the box to watch a handful of stations.