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FCC Gives DTV Station Analog Cable Carriage

The Federal Communications Commission ruled Friday night that digital-only
broadcaster WHDT-DT in Stuart, Fla., was entitled to mandatory carriage on area
cable systems. The FCC said the station could elect either analog or digital

The commission, releasing the decision during chairman William Kennard's last
hours in office, said it would review in 2003 whether WHDT-DT should continue to
have an analog-carriage right.

The National Cable Television Association opposed analog carriage for
digital-only TV stations, claiming that the start-up stations would unfairly
gain access to scarce analog channels ahead of cable networks.

'With respect to the Stuart, Fla., case, we don't think there's any basis for
giving a new digital-only broadcaster analog carriage of its digital signal on
cable systems. This requirement does nothing to promote either the statutory
objectives of must-carry or the digital-broadcast transition,' NCTA president
Robert Sachs said in a prepared statement.

The decision, however, was not far-reaching. FCC sources said there are
currently only about three other digital-only TV stations in operation and some
30 more with construction permits.

The FCC approved, but did not release, an order deciding whether cable
operators have to carry both analog- and digital-TV signals during the
transition. An agency source said the decision would be released Monday.

According to cable-industry sources, the commission is expected to deny TV
stations 'dual carriage' on cable systems, citing First and Fifth Amendment
concerns. The FCC is also expected to rule that cable operators are not required
to carry multiple digital-broadcast signals.

In other actions, the FCC:

\u0007 Denied a request to set performance standards for digital-TV receivers,
stating that it was concerned about stifling innovation.

\u0007 Affirmed the 8-VSB (vestigial sideband) broadcast-transmission standard,
saying that there was no reason to investigate use of an alternative
digital-TV-modulation standard.

\u0007 Issued a further notice of proposed rulemaking to evaluate the need to
require new TV sets 32 inches and larger to receive analog and digital