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DIC Eyes Broadcast Net for Kids

Look out, Discovery Kids and WAM! America’s Kidz Network: Competition could be coming in a big way from a company that said it wants to launch an ad-supported national broadcast network aimed at kids in their early teens and younger.

But DIC Entertainment Corp., the Burbank, Calif.-based proponent of the new network, said the venture won't get off the ground unless the Federal Communications Commission requires cable operators to carry TV stations' multiple digital-programming streams.

"The DIC Kid's Network is contingent on multicasting must-carry rules," according to a Nov. 4 FCC filing.

The filing was intended to document a meeting the day before between DIC chairman and CEO Andy Heyward, FCC member Jonathan Adelstein and Adelstein’s aide, Johanna Mikes Shelton.

The cable industry is fighting the multicast mandate, claiming that it would give DIC Kid's Network cable access by default when cable programmers without FCC broadcast licenses would have to bargain with MSOs for carriage. The commission plans to rule before the end of the year.

DIC claimed that it can launch a 24-7 digital network on the support of a library that includes episodes of Inspector Gadget, Strawberry Shortcake, Carmen Sandiego, Speed Racer and Madeline. The network would also offer "significant educational content and feeds in Spanish."

DIC said it currently supplies 400 TV stations with children's educational and informational programming to help them meet current federal regulatory requirements.

Mandatory access to cable is imperative because an ad-funded network can't profitably serve off-air-only viewers unless it has a guarantee of reaching the vast majority of cable's 70 million homes, DIC told the FCC.

"Must-carry of the entire free portion of the broadcasters' digital channels is critical to the success of this proposal," DIC Kid's Network said.

Cable operators argued that every TV station in the United States is entitled to mandatory carriage of only one digital-programming stream, but only after stations demanding carriage have returned their analog licenses to the FCC.