Another DTV Transition Issue: Channel Positioning

When it comes to the digital TV transition and ongoing strategizing between cable and broadcasters, channel position could become a big deal before and after Feb. 17, 2009, the date for the DTV switch.

In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission this week, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association argued on the topic of local channel positioning in a dual-carriage environment. Under dual-carriage mandates, an MSO is required to carry analog and digital signals of broadcasters after the digital TV change, under certain circumstances.

NCTA proposed in its FCC filing that a must-carry broadcaster's channel positioning rights should apply to the analog version of the signal post-DTV transition. Thus, operators would position the analog version on the same channel number as the must-carry station's analog signal, the association suggested.

As for digital broadcast feeds, cable operators should be permitted to position that signal on a channel of their choosing, NCTA said.

Such positioning will cause the least disruption to cable channel line-ups, NCTA said. "The commission should allow operators to proceed in a way that is least disruptive to cable operations and to consumers," the group said in its comments.

Also in its filing, NCTA said the commission should exempt systems with limited channel capacity and systems with fewer than 5,000 subscribers from any dual carriage requirement. The proposal is aimed at small cable systems that may struggle with dual-carriage rules.