The FCC has ruled that a must-carry station cannot expect to keep its channel number on a cable system based on its previous analog channel, but instead will be given a channel number from its new digital channel designation.
The ruling comes after KSQA in Topeka, KS asked to be on channel 12 on the local Cox cable system and not on channel 22, the number it was given by Cox. Channel 12 is currently occupied by WIBW, the local CBS affiliate.
According to the FCC complaint, “the primary issue before us is whether KSQA has a right to demand carriage on Channel 12 of Cox’s cable system when its over-the-air broadcast channel is 12.”
In its ruling the FCC stated, “KSQA is incorrect that it would also have a right to carriage on Channel 12. Therefore its demand that it be carried on Channel 12 must be denied.”
The issue hinges on the over-the-air frequency versus the Major Channel Number as carried in its PSIP or program and system information protocol. Broadcasting & Cable stated it best,
…the FCC, to ensure that broadcasters could maintain continuity of channels in the digital age, decided that a broadcaster would no longer be identified by its radio frequency, which was changing with digital repacking, but instead by its program and system information protocol, or PSIP, which generally corresponds to its previous analog channel.
KSQA is looking to have the FCC Media Bureau change its PSIP from 22 to 12 in an attempt to revisit the request with Cox.
For its part, the FCC also stated in it ruling, “Although we must dismiss KSQA’s Complaint to be carried on Channel 12, we do so without prejudice to KSQA renewing its carriage demand and, if necessary, filing a renewed carriage complaint after its petition to change or delete its Major Channel Number 22 is resolved.”[Broadcasting&Cable]