June 7, 2006

Senator prefers Congress act on TV multicasting

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If U.S. cable companies are going to
be required to carry extra channels from broadcasters, the
mandate should come from Congress not regulators, Senate
Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said on Wednesday.

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to vote,
possibly next week, on a plan that would require cable
operators such as Comcast Corp. to carry extra channels that
television broadcasters are launching.

"Well I would hope that if it is going to be done, that
it'll be done by Congress and not by the FCC," Stevens, an
Alaska Republican, told reporters after speaking to a group of
cable executives.

Steven's committee has jurisdiction over the matter and is
considering a broad rewrite of U.S. communications laws.

With the advent of digital broadcasting, television
stations have the capability of offering additional channels,
known as multicasting. Under current regulations, a broadcaster
can force cable to carry its primary signal.

The cable industry has fought broadcasters' efforts to have
the FCC require the extra channels be carried, and is expected
to challenge any such plan in court.

The FCC, under former Chairman Michael Powell, last year
rejected must-carry for multicast channels. But agency
officials and industry sources said new FCC Chairman Kevin
Martin, has circulated a proposal reversing course.

Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan
Adelstein have said they wanted to address public interest
obligations of local television stations first before voting on
multicasting. They worry that additional digital channels in
multicasting may not include local content.

Martin hoped to vote on his proposal by the FCC's next
monthly open meeting on June 15, sources close to the matter
said last week. The timing of the vote and meeting could
change, particularly since new FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell
joined the agency last week.

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of
Broadcasters, said that multicasting would "result in an
explosion in programming choices, including public interest
programming that has long been the hallmark of local