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NCTA: FCC Can’t Force Low-Power Carriage

The Federal Communications Commission has no authority to force cable operators to carry all class-A low-power-TV stations, the cable industry argued.

Not only would it violate the law, but it would "disserve" the public interest in diversity of programming.

That was the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's message to the FCC in comments regarding several diversity initiatives it is pondering.

The FCC already adopted various initiatives to promote participation by small businesses (which are meant to include women and minorities) in the media business, but it also put other proposals and tentative conclusions out for comment, including that giving class-A low-powers must-carry status would promoted programming diversity and localism.

The NCTA strongly disagreed, saying that the FCC provides no reason to believe that low-powers have diverse ownership. In addition, the trade group said, expanding TV-carriage rights would harm diversity by forcing out niche programming on cable systems with carriage capacity already strained by the three-year dual-carriage requirement the FCC imposed on cable last fall.

Not surprisingly, low-power stations told the FCC this week that it does have the authority to require the carriage and that it would benefit diversity.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

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.