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LPTV Stations Have ‘Access’ to Grind

Cable operators could have a fight on their hands as the FCC prepares to rethink its leased-access rules.

Low-power TV stations have said that will be one of their battlefronts to try to get more respect for their signals — and more carriage from multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). The other front is the must-carry/retransmission-consent regime from which lowpower TV outlets are excluded.

“There is case upon case of the cable MVPD denying must-carry claims, and then attempting to force leased-access contracts,” LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition executive director Mike Gravino told The Wire.

MVPDs are under no obligation to carry LPTVs. But Gravino’s beef goes beyond that. He also called it discrimination that MVPDs offer zero-cost leased-access contracts to networks they want to air, but not to local LPTVs. Look for the coalition to pull out the “gatekeeper” epithet MVPDs have been saddled with by backers of tough net-neutrality rules.

“The MVPD uses public rights of way, and Congress gave them special powers over local content,” Gravino said.

Not looking to engage in an LPTV war, of words or otherwise, NCTA–The Internet & Television Association said: “We commend the FCC for moving to re-examine some of its leased-access rules. The rule changes adopted by the FCC in 2008 have never taken effect, having been both stayed by the courts and disapproved of by OMB. Meanwhile, the video marketplace of competitive multichannel video programming distributors and online video is vastly different from what existed a decade ago, much less from when Congress adopted the leased-access requirements.”