Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Not Coming Soon to a cable channel near you! .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Not Coming Soon to a cable channel near you!

FCC backs cable companies on digital channels

I don't have a digital TV yet, but I do have a digital cable box.

The FCC has required broadcasters to provide digital channels, if they want to retain over-the-air spectrum, by December 2006 or when digital televisions reach 85% penetration, whichever comes later.

But apparently, the broadcasters are attempting to use this requirement to dredge up the "must-carry" controversy that raged in the '90s to try and force cable companies to carry all of their multi-channel offerings. Before then, the cable companies could choose whether or not they wanted to carry local channels. Most chose to, because they provided local news and an alternative from TBS, WGN, and the other not-so-local channels that they downlinked from satellites.

"Must-carry" required cable companies to carry local broadcasters to prevent monopolizing what their customers were offered.

Now, armed with digital technology, broadcasters can squeeze more channels into the over-the-air spectrum that they hold long-term leases on, allowing them to broadcast more channels than they could in the past. And now they want the cable companies to be required to allow space on the cable system for all of their offerings, even if it requires the cable companies to remove other channels to make that space.

The FCC disagreed, which I believe is better for the customer. If Fox, for example, decided to split their current spectrum into six different channels, why should I have to give up other channels so they can have space on my cable box? Especially since they most likely wouldn't provide six times the entertainment, or six times the quality, or even six times the choices. Chances are they'd use one for weather, one for shopping, and then split their current offering four ways to fill up the rest. I can live without four times as much Simpsons on TV.

The commission's only dissenter, Republican Kevin Martin, contended the ruling would hamper the ability of small, independent minority and religious broadcasters to get on the air.

"The public could have benefited from more free programming," he said.

Wow! Three hot buttons in one statement! That makes me believe it's the right decision just because of that. Keywords "minority", "religious" and "free" are all used, and none of them apply. There's no shortage of minority or religious broadcasting on cable, and I don't think five extra broadcast channels is going to make my cable bill go down any. Do you?

Of course, I could be wrong. If so, let me know. But no satellite people, though, 'cause these rules wouldn't apply to you anyway.


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