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NCTA Seeks Parity on Distant TV Signals

The cable industry’s largest trade association is calling for new rules on cable carriage of out-of-market TV stations to eliminate a regulatory advantage held by direct-broadcast satellite carriers.

Cable systems that want to bring in distant stations need retransmission consent and might have to block network and syndicated programming, leaving just locally produced programming to present to subscribers.

In a March 1 filing, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the Federal Communications Commission that DBS providers face none of those regulatory hurdles and pay lower copyright-royalty fees to provide distant signals.

The NCTA said the problem is especially painful for many rural cable companies serving markets with weak analog and digital signals offered by local stations.

“DBS can and does exploit these three significant advantages over cable,” the NCTA said.

The trade group called on the FCC to eliminate its blackout rules and to urge Congress to abolish retransmission consent for cable importation of distant signals, both analog and digital, to ensure that cable subscribers have the same access as DBS customers.

The NCTA said current FCC rules impose an “unacceptable hardship on rural cable operators.”