NAB Pushes Local HD Carriage Rules for DBS

Last week, broadcasters continued to push local HD must-carry provisions for DBS, saying small dish providers shouldn't be allowed to pick and choose the local high-def stations they deliver to subscribers.

According to a filing at the Federal Communications Commission, representatives with the National Association of Broadcasters met with agency staff about local HD must-carry mandates. The broadcast group argued that a DBS company should make available local HD services in any market they serve on a carry-one, carry-all basis.

Allowing DBS services to "cherry-pick among local stations and foreclose viewer access to HD content on numerous stations, including independent stations and those that serve niche audiences, would be harmful to intramodal competition and contrary to the public interest," stated the NAB filing at the FCC.

According to earlier filings at the FCC, DIRECTV and DISH Network have been approached by commission staff about a phased-in approach for a must-carry HD locals regime, in which a select number of markets would receive all high-def stations after a period of time.

Specifically, DIRECTV and DISH proposed that for any carry-one, carry-all local HD rule, a phase-in process could cover 15 percent of markets served by a DBS service a year after the digital TV transition. That would increase to 30 percent two years after the switch, 60 percent three years after the transition, and then all HD markets served by a DBS platform four years after the DTV change.

Nonetheless, NAB said DBS operators have made suggestions that they have sufficient capacity to carry HD broadcast signals in all 210 markets.

For example, DIRECTV has said it will have capabilities to retransmit at least 1,500 local channels in HD format. "These 1,500 channels would cover virtually every local television station it could ever be obligated to retransmit in HD," the NAB said. Also. DISH Network has announced the launch of three satellites, giving it enough capacity to deliver HD locals in at least 100 markets this year, the broadcast association said.