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NCTA: Multicast Must-Carry Is No Boon to Minorities

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said it is all for tax credits that would boost minority media ownership and various other initiatives.

But those initiatives do not include requiring cable operators to carry broadcasters’ multicast digital-TV channels or a proposal by Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to give must-carry status to DTV channels subleased by broadcasters to so-called designated entries, which would include minorities and women.

In comments to the FCC on its media-ownership-rule review, the NCTA was responding to some proposals made by the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. The trade group said it supported a bill, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), which would give a tax break to companies who sell to small businesses.

The NCTA also supports the creation of an “Access to Capital” conference that would give minority entrepreneurs access to communications companies and private-equity firms, as well as the creation of a "diversity guidebook” of best practices for encouraging diversity and boosting minority and female ownership.

But the cable industry was clear that it opposed multicast must-carry, including the subleasing variation, saying that the FCC has already ruled that cable must only carry the "primary" digital-video stream, not multicast streams, and that mandating multicast must-carry would actually reduce the available space for minority programmers.

Martin has argued that allowing minorities and others to lease DTV spectrum with guaranteed cable carriage would boost the diversity of programming by helping them to overcome the steep start-up costs of buying or building a station.