NCTA: No Must-Carry for Temporary Channels

WASHINGTON — One broadcaster effort to get more time to move TV stations to new channels after the spectrum auction ends is getting pushback from cable operators not looking to extend their carriage obligations.

Currently, only stations that give up spectrum in the auction are allowed to strike sharing agreements with another station in the market, which would presumably be long-term agreements that allow those stations giving up spectrum to remain in the business.

But OTA, a broadcast group started by computer pioneer Michael Dell to accumulate spectrum to enter into the auction, is suggesting the FCC allow stations not in the auction, but moving to a new channel in the repack, to share channels on a temporary basis if they are “ ‘bottleneck stations’ that could expedite the transition by vacating their pre-auction channels in advance of their phase completion date.”

The National Association of Broadcasters said that if that happens, stations should retain must-carry and retrans rights, as do the stations giving up spectrum.

The FCC has tentatively concluded that would be the case with temporary station sharing. But NCTA-the Internet & Television Association said the FCC can’t do that.

NCTA pointed out in a FCC filing that the Cable Act only gives must-carry/retransmission consent rights to “licensed” stations on “a channel regularly assigned to its community.”

A temporary channel would not satisfy either of those requirements, NCTA said, given that they are “interim, provisional and nonpermanent.”

“In short, carriage of temporary broadcast channels would not be required by the must -carry provisions of the Cable Act,” NCTA said.

If the FCC sees that temporary sharing as a way to get spectrum in the hands of wireless carriers more quickly, look for it to defend its tentative conclusion.

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.