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NRB Asks White House for DTV Delay

The president of the National Religious Broadcasters has written the [resident of the United States suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission should not vote on multicast must-carry until after a new chairman is chosen.

Current FCC Chairman Michael Powell has announced plans to leave in March, but is widely expected to preside over a Feb. 10 vote denying the request that the FCC mandate cable and satellite carriage of all of a broadcaster's digital channels.

The FCC has already suggested that it interprets the digital must-carry mandate to extend only to the replication of a broadcaster's primary digital signal, but concerned broadcasters asked it to reconsider.

Recently, Bud Paxson asked the FCC to issue a ruling one way or another, but broadcasters now fear that the vote is going the wrong way.

"The ultimate impact of that decision [to deny multicast must-carry]," says NRB President Frank Wright, "would be less of our programming in the nation's homes."

The possibility of losing on the key multicasting must-carry issue has galvanized broadcasters. Network affiliates have petitioned the FCC to delay the decision, as has DTV pioneer and station group owner Belo, which has also petitioned Congress to intervene.