NCTA complains whdt abusing must-carry laws

The cable industry last week criticized a Florida digital TV station's attempt to gain carriage on the basic tier of the local cable system. Whdt West Palm Beach, which will broadcast only in digital, wants the local Comcast franchise to carry its signal to the widest audience possible and has offered to "down-convert" its signal to analog to make that possible.

But the National Cable Television Association Friday said the station is trying to abuse federal must-carry rules, which were created to make sure people continue to get free over-the-air television. "The ruling requested by the petitioner would do absolutely nothing to promote this objective," NCTA told the FCC.

NCTA said it would be wrong to bump cable networks such as Oxygen, Noggin, and Biography from the basic tier in favor of a TV station with over-the-air reception available only to a handful of viewers with digital sets. "The ruling sought by [whdt] would validate a gimmick of obtaining a digital license for a service received over the air by virtually nobody, in order to jump to the head of the programming line with a right to analog placement."

The National Association of Broadcasters is backing whdt on the grounds that it is the only station to win approval to broadcast digital-only and is an isolated case.