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HD Small Operator Waiver Extended Under Compromise Proposal

The FCC has adopted a compromise proposal to extend its HD carriage exemption to smaller cable operators.

THe American Cable Association had sought the extension, saying it was still neededwhile the National Association of Broadcasters had said it needed to be narrowed.

The requirement that cable operators transmit must-carry stations in HD if that is the way they are delivered over the air dates back to the DTV transition of 2009, as does the exemption. The FCC is currently deciding whether to extend that mandate and the exemption, both of which it appears inclined to do.

NAB asked that it be narrowed so that if a smaller cable operator delivers any channel in HD, the exemption goes away.

ACA and NAB were able to get together on a compromise proposal that included narrowing the exemption. "We find that the joint proposal strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of broadcast stations in having their HD signals transmitted without material degradation and the technical and financial constraints that some small cable operators continue to experience," the FCC said in adopting the proposal.

Under the proposal, a small cable operator not offering any programming in HD is exempt from the requirement. Beginning Dec. 12, 2016, if a small operator does start carrying any channel in HD, it must carry broadcast stations it offer in HD as well. and come into compliance "promptly."

The compromise narrows somewhat the definition of a small operator eligible for the exemption — from 2,500 to 1,500 subs and it can not be affiliated with a cable operator serving more than 2% of all MVPDs rather than 10%.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.