The FCC’s vote is a setback for broadcasters who were asking for a three-year extension of the rule that requires cable systems to offer analog versions of must-carry channels. Once the rule is gone, viewers with analog TV sets will need a set-top box to continue to receive them.
Fierce opposition to FCC Chairman Genachowski’s plan to sunset cable carriage of analog signals is being led by independent stations, especially those with religious and foreign-language formats. Key to their efforts is convincing Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to oppose the plan.
A coalition of broadcasters is working to extend the FCC rule that requires cable operators to carry must-carry signals in an analog format so viewers with old TV sets can continue to watch them. Many affected must-carry stations provide services that are appreciated by narrow segments of the America public. In other words, they provide diversity in programming — one of the pillars of FCC policy. By letting the rule expire, the FCC would unnecessarily hurt the weakest stations, diminish their value and threaten the diversity they bring to the public.