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Programmers seek ITV signal protection

Cable operators must not be allowed to block interactive TV signals of rival content, a group of programmers told the FCC Monday.

"Consumers will not reap the full benefits of the ITV market unless vertically integrated broadband distributors are prevented from discriminating against unaffiliated ITV service and content providers," said the group, which is comprised of Disney/ABC, Viacom/CBS, USA Networks and Univision.

The groups, operating under the catchy moniker "Non-MVPD programming networks," urged the FCC to require all broadband distributors that carry any ITV signals to forward the signals for all programmers on their system. ITV is still an infant business, but many programmers are developing a variety of uses included interactive news polls, sports statistics and advertisements.

The group also urged the FCC to prohibit discriminatory routing or caching practices that would allow cable systems to transmit their affiliated programming at higher speeds than competing programs. Finally, the group said consumers should not be required to operate set top boxes in order to receive ITV services. Public advocacy groups also sided with those programmers.

"A framework of open access would allow for the continued flourishing of democratic discourse, in the digital age," wrote the advocates, which include Media Access Project, Center for Media Education, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America.

The National Cable Television Association countered that saddling cable systems with ITV mandates would dissuade them from investing in the new service. "By creating a regulatory overhang, or even the threat of one, such an exercise could actually discourage investment in ITV," NCTA wrote.
- Bill McConnell