FCC allows sun to set on viewability rule


Mignon ClyburnThree years after the DTV transition, the FCC is going to let the rule requiring cable systems to assure reception of broadcast stations to consumers with analog television sets is going to fade away.

The FCC believes that cable systems can put bandwidth to better use than to continue to make both a digital and an analog broadcast signal available to subscribers. Therefore, the 6/12/12 sunset that was part of the DTV transition will be allowed to come to pass.

However, the FCC is not completely abandoning the millions of cable subscribers who still use analog receivers. Cable companies must make sure that the small, low-cost set-top converters that are now on the market are made available to consumers at low or no cost. NCTA told the FCC that many large cable companies have already made this commitment.

Cable companies will also be able to continue to pass along dual broadcast signals if they wish.
NAB arguments to extend viewability, which had the support of a number of public interest groups, were swept aside.

A six-month transition period has been established to allow necessary steps to be taken to assure all consumers can receive all broadcast television stations.

The two Republican commissioners, Robert McDowell and Ajit Pai, submitted statements in support of allowing the sun to set.

So did Democrat Mignon Clyburn, who nevertheless stated her misgivings in so doing. “This step is the one of the biggest examples of a trust-based approach in quite some time, and yes, it comes with some anxiety,” she said. “As I have mentioned time and again, we look to industry to use best practices, proactive and thorough outreach, and forward thinking when a large-scale change of service is on the horizon.”

“It is of the utmost importance that stations are able to reach any and all cable viewers, regardless of whom or where they are,” stated Clyburn. “Cable providers have committed to this office that they will make the transition as painless as possible and that if needed, set-top boxes will be widely available, at an extremely low (if any) cost, easy to get, and easy to install. I will hold them to that commitment.”

RBR-TVBR observation: If you have a complaint, let the FCC know – and make sure Clyburn’s office is in on it. She has stated in no uncertain terms her commitment to see to it that no cable subscriber anywhere loses broadcast service. That makes her the go-to commissioner if you become aware of a trouble spot.