NRTC, Others Weigh In on DBS Carriage Issues

As the Federal Communications Commission prepares for its meeting next week, in which the agency is set to take up matters related to carriage of digital broadcast signals by satellite providers, all sides of the debate were busy at the Portals in the past few days lobbying for their respective positions.

It's expected that the FCC will consider rules for carriage of HD locals by satellite TV providers at its meeting. While there aren't specifics, the talk has been that a carry-one, carry-all mandate will apply to DBS, requiring delivery of all high-def locals in markets served by small dish services.

In a letter sent to the FCC this week, the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative aid any efforts to require DBS delivery of HD signals should be handled carefully. And any missteps could "inadvertently impede satellite rollout of both standard definition and HD services in rural local markets."

NRTC added, "any expansion of the carry-one, carry-all rules to cover HD channels before satellite carriers have deployed sufficient space and ground capacity to comply could result in those carriers delaying the rollout of additional local signals or dropping HD service in existing markets and/or delaying service in future markets. Such an outcome would be devastating both to NRTC customers who now depend on satellite for reception of broadcast programming and those who expect to receive local SD and HD in the near future."

In recent weeks, DISH Network and DIRECTV have approached the FCC with a proposal that would allow for a phased-in approach for HD locals. Both companies were back at the FCC this week promoting their plan.

Specifically, the companies proposed that for any carry-one, carry-all local HD rule, a phased-in process could cover 15 percent of markets served by a DBS service a year after the digital TV transition, now set for February 2009. 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.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters argued at the FCC for its request that DBS services carry all locals for all 210 DMAs, saying the satellite platforms have sufficient capacity for such an undertaking.

The FCC meeting is set for Wednesday