NCTA Opposes Urban TV Proposal

Media, Civil Rights Groups Voice Support for Urban TV
Bob Johnson Sets Sights On New Urban Cable Network

Count the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) clearly in the opposition when it comes to Ion Media and Urban Television's proposal to create an over-the-air minority-targeted TV network using Ion's multicast digital channels.

That is not surprise since the Ion/Urban Television proposal is contingent on the FCC granting those stations mandatory cable carriage.

In a filing with the FCC Tuesday, NCTA said the plan was defective and should be dismissed or denied.

“[C]ostumed in the sheep's clothing of a harmless share-time agreement," waxed the cable lobby, "this is the wolf of multicast must-carry."

Ion wants the FCC to treat the multicast stations as separate licensees and assign a portion of that license to Urban to program. NCTA says there are no licenses to assign because there has been no showing that the novel proposal squares with current FCC rules and regulations, which NCTA argues it does not.

The FCC has already rejected multicast must-carry, twice at least, and NCTA says it must do so again.

Cable operators already have a problem with mandatory station carriage as a government thumb on the scale of private carriage negotiations, as well as a taking of property and a violation of cable's First Amendment rights as the editors of their own service.

NCTA says that an additional carriage mandate would knock other channels off their lineups and delay the roll-out of more bandwidth-heavy services like HDTV and interactive applications.

But NCTA gives many more reasons for its opposition, including that Ion and Urban have not filed the requisite papers for a transfer of license, that they violate an FCC ban on contingent applications (Ion/Urban argued that the plan will only work if they get must-carry), and that the FCC has not sought competing applications, among others.

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.