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FCC Moves TV Carriage Elections Online

As expected, the FCC has voted to tweak the broadcast TV station signal carriage election process.

At the FCC's monthly meeting Wednesday (July 10) the commission voted unanimously to allow TV stations to transition their notifications to MVPDS of their carriage election--must-carry or retrans--to email.

The FCC will also now only require such notifications if a broadcaster changes its election or when first electing carriage.

The notices must also be posted to a broadcaster's public file.

Broadcasters had been required to send a paper notice by certified mail to each cable system every three years, whether they changed their carriage election of not. The FCC was essentially voting on a compromise approach to the revamp offered up by the National Association of Broadcasters and NCTA-The Internet & Television Association.

"I’m particularly pleased that our carriage election Report and Order reflects a compromise proposal that almost every commenter supported," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Cable operators will be required to provide an email address for the elections and a phone number contact to the FCC so it will be in a commission database.

The item also included a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking how to extend the new framework to broadcasters and MVPDs that don't use the FCC database. In the meantime they will have to continue to send paper notices.

The American Cable Association had said smaller cable operators might need more time to comply and asked the FCC to give them that time and require broadcasters to keep sending the registered mail elections in the interim. The FCC was unpersuaded, and said all cable operators would need to have their new contact info to the FCC by July 31, 2020. 

“NAB applauds the FCC for updating the notification process for carriage of local TV stations’ signals on pay-TV systems," said NAB VP of media relations Zamir Ahmed. "Allowing for a more limited set of carriage notices to be sent electronically rather than by outdated and expensive certified mail represents a smart approach to streamlining bureaucracy that has outlived its usefulness. We appreciate NCTA’s willingness to work with NAB to alleviate this regulatory relic and thank the FCC for its flexible approach to carriage elections.”