DIRECTV Takes Aim at NAB's Digital Broadcast Idea

In a filing sent to the Federal Communications Commission this week, DIRECTV told the agency that it opposes a petition from the National Association of Broadcasters that asks the agency to impose an "all content bits" carriage requirement on cable for delivery of digital broadcast signals.

Under the NAB petition pending at the FCC, cable operators would be prohibited from using compression and other digital processing technologies when they retransmit broadcast signals. The cable-centric idea apparently concerned DIRECTV enough to compel the company to state its position on the broadcast signal anti-stripping proposal.

In its comments, DIRECTV pointed out that the FCC has been OK with digital processing efforts, previously concluding that restricting the techniques would stifle "the very efficiency that digital technology offers." And Congress prohibited the FCC from restricting satellite's use of digital processing, recognizing that any restriction would impact satellite-delivered local TV service.

"The commission should not abandon its common-sense approach to ‘material degradation' in favor of a ‘count the bits' proposal that would both run afoul of Congress' mandate and unnecessarily stifle innovation as we proceed through the digital transition," the satellite TV company said.

If the FCC considers the broadcaster digital carriage plan, the agency should keep in mind Congress's directive for satellite, DIRECTV said. The company added that if an "all content bits" rule was applied to DBS, the company could be forced to drop local services in nearly every market.

"This would represent a grossly inefficient use of scarce spectrum resources It would also render billions of dollars of investment in spot-beam satellites effectively useless. In the end, DIRECTV would be a less effective competitor to cable," the company said in its comments.

DIRECTV asked the FCC to deny the broadcaster petition.