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FCC Waives NCE Translator Carriage Notices to MVPDs

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

In a bit of housekeeping, the FCC has granted a petition by noncommercial educational (NCE) TV station translators that they not be required to email a carriage notice to MVPDs, the deadline for which is Oct. 1.

In adopting new carriage election notice rules in 2019, the FCC required that LPTVs and NCEs eligible for must-carry e-mail one-time notifications as a baseline requirement.

But America's Public Television Stations and the Public Broadcasting Service pointed out that while LPTV's can elect retransmission consent, NCE's, which only retransmit programming of primary NCE's, can only elect for mandatory carriage, and sought a waiver from the requirement.

"NCE translators are carried by MVPDs serving millions of Americans without the need for them to provide carriage election information to those MVPDs," they told the FCC, asserting that in some cases translators "do not even know, in many cases, which MVPDs are carrying them (as opposed to an NCE’s primary signal), and that no resource exists to easily determine this information." As a result, they said, even having to send a one-time email notice would be a burden without a public interest benefit and could lead to stations being dropped if they did not provide the proper notice.

Cable operators are always looking for more channel space and have long argued that must-carry is a government thumb on the scale for content they might not otherwise choose to carry.

The FCC's Media Bureau granted the waiver. "Given the unique characteristics of NCE translators, the public interest would be best served by waiving the baseline email notification requirement for NCE translators adopted in the 2020 Report and Order," the bureau said.

"As NCE translators merely repeat a primary NCE station’s programming, Petitioners contend that the primary NCE station’s communication with an MVPD should suffice for carriage election and notification purposes," the bureau said. "We conclude that these special circumstances support granting the waiver in this instance for qualified NCE translator stations...Given that there is no readily available resource for NCE translators to determine which cable systems are carrying their stations, we find that the costs of compliance with the baseline email notification for NCE translator stations far outweigh any possible benefits."

The petition was unopposed by MVPDs.