NRB Writes Bush on Multicasting Vote

2/03/2005 3:08 AM Eastern

In a letter Wednesday to President Bush, National Religious Broadcasters said Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell plans to "punish" TV stations by denying them full cable-carriage rights for their digital signals.

In the short letter, also sent to Bush political adviser Karl Rove, NRB president Frank Wright said that because Powell has announced his plan to leave in March, “it would seem exceedingly appropriate to wait and resolve this issue after you have selected the new chairman.”

FCC commissioner Kevin Martin, a Republican Bush appointee, is in the running for the chairmanship. Martin is considered supportive of broadcasters’ cable-carriage goals.

On Feb. 10, the FCC is expected to vote that cable systems are not required to carry more than one digital-programming service of each digital-TV station. Many broadcasters want mandatory carriage of every programming service (perhaps five or six channels) that they can transmit digitally.

Wright said Powell’s plan to reject multicasting would “unfairly punish broadcasters (including religious broadcasters) by allowing cable companies to avoid carrying our multiple signals in the digital environment.”

Wright also explained that the digital-TV transition involved some tough choices and broadcasters did not expect to benefit from all of them.

“Our concern is only that whatever decisions are rendered should be done in a comprehensive fashion. To single out this particular issue pertaining to broadcasters seems singularly inappropriate,” he added.