Media reports have been circulating that the Federal Communications Commission is considering getting rid of its “viewability” rule. Under current rules, cable companies must provide analog and digital versions of broadcasts from must carry stations.
A must carry station is a commercial or noncommercial television broadcast station that demands that a cable company carry its signal. Under a must carry scenario, the broadcast station is not compensated by the cable company.
Under the FCC’s proposal, cable operators will only be required to transmit the digital portion of their signal. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is reportedly in favor of getting rid of the requirement. Part of the FCC’s rationale for supporting the rule change is that eliminating the requirement that analog signals be carried would free up analog capacity for other uses such as new digital channels and additional broadband services.
The proposal does not sound reasonable to the National Black Religious Broadcasters. The NBRB believes that the expiration of the viewability rule would have a serious negative impact on viewers of faith-based programming throughout the country. According to NBRB, much of faith-based programming is viewed on must-carry television stations.
The NBRB’s concerns touches on the larger issue of diversity in programming. Would the change in policy reduce the availability of diverse messages and voices? The FCC may argue that the policy change may not simply because of technology.
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