On February 10, 2005, the Federal Communications Commission voted 4-1 against requiring cable operators to carry multiple digital signals for local stations. Currently local broadcasters can use their digital spectrum to air one premium quality digital picture and/or to air multiple channels.
WRAL-TV uses its bandwidth to air its regular channels, WRAL-TV5 and WRAZ-TV/FOX 50, as well as the WRAL Newschannel, a 24-hour local weather channel, live Durham Bulls baseball games, all 64 games of the annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, and more.
The following is CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon’s response to the ruling:
Multicasting allows broadcasters to better serve our communities and our viewers with more local programming – something national cable channels cannot do. The unfortunate reality is that most of our viewers receive our broadcast channels via a multichannel provider, not over-the-air. As a result, multichannel carriage is essential to the viability of new local multicast channels.
Today the Commission places a local broadcaster in an awkward and conflicted position. Broadcasters have a statutory duty to address the needs, interests and problems in our local communities. With this ruling, if a local broadcaster determines that a new channel would be beneficial to meet our statutory duty, we must first ask our cable company for permission. Five cable companies, without a comparable statutory duty, may now be the final judge of local broadcast programming in more than half of America’s TV households. This makes no sense.
A better outcome would have resulted if the Commission had completed its public interest and localism rulemakings to determine multicasting’s role. After that, a multicasting decision would have been based on sounder public policy.