Digital TV Showdown On the Horizon

NEW YORK Broadcasters and cable companies promise a brisk lobbying battle as federal regulators prepare to pass judgment as early as next month on whether cable providers must carry more than one digital TV channel.

“It is vitally important for cable systems to carry all signals offered by local TV stations,” said Edward Fritts, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, in a statement today. “NAB will continue to strongly advocate this position.”

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association pointed out that the Federal Communications Commission had decided once before, in 2001, that cable systems are obligated to carry only one digital video signal.

“Cable operators and programmers alike will continue to urge the commission to reaffirm its previous rulings,” said NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz.

The groups were reacting to a Reuters report that FCC Chairman Michael Powell is circulating a proposal, for a possible February vote, to reject broadcasters’ request that cable companies carry the multiple streams of digital programming possible once the industry ceases using analog transmissions.