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FCC's Martin Considers Dual Carriage Mandate

An FCC source confirms that Chairman Kevin Martin is floating a proposal that could require cable systems to deliver both a digital and analog version of a TV station's signal after the February 2009 transition to digital.

Currently, cable is only required to carry the digital signal after the transition.

The chairman circulated upwards of 70 orders and proposals to the other commissioners in advance of oversight hearings in the House and Senate, but is said to be putting a priority on the DTV-transition related items. These items include a notice of proposed rule-making-- first reported by Multichannel News' Ted Hearn--on what requirements should be put on cable in terms of delivering a viewable TV station signal to its customers as required by law.

The notice asks whether the FCC should require dual analog and DTV cable carriage to make sure TV station signals get to cable customers who still have analog equipment or, alternatively, require digital carriage only but make cable operators responsible for insuring their analog customers without cable boxes get the converters necessary to view the digital signal.

Martin told B&C in January that not allowing cable to "degrade" the DTV signal was a key to the digital transition , and he talked of  "meeting the Communications Act’s basic requirements that the digital signal be viewable by all TV watchers, and that it not be materially degraded by a cable or satellite provider."

The chairman is also looking to resolve some outstanding requests by stations for more waivers of the DTV build-out deadline.