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FCC: Gemstar VBI not mandated for TWC

Thu, 12/06/2001 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

In a blow for Gemstar International, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission ruled that Time Warner Cable's analog must-carry obligations don't include the program guide company's vertical blanking interval (VBI) technology.

"Must carry obligations do not require the company to carry material inserted in the (VBI) of over-the-air broadcast stations at the behest of Gemstar International," the FCC said in a statement.

Gemstar developed Guide Plus+, an electronic program guide built into TVs and VCRs made by its licensees. It sends data for program listing updates through the VBI of the signal of analog over-the-air broadcast stations. The EPG doesn't function without the programming updates.

TWC in a filing asked the FCC to determine if GuidePlus+ material falls under the must-carry rules.

Cable operators are required to retransmit program-related material in the VBI, the FCC says. The question was whether material in the VBI is program-related. The FCC fell back on a case between WGN Continental Broadcasting Co. and United Video Inc. for guidelines to determine the issue.

According to the FCC, for the VBI information to fall under the program-related category, it must be intended to be seen by the same viewers watching the main program; it must be available during the same interval of time as the main program, and it has to be an integral part of the main program. Gemstar's VBI material did not fit those categories, it says.

"The Order finds that very little of Gemstar's VBI material is uniquely related to the main program of the broadcast station carrying it, but instead consists of information regarding programming on other channels, as well as advertisements and other promotions that do not relate to any program," the FCC says in its ruling. It also noted that the decision was limited to the "distinct question" regarding the technology and video channels used to deliver Gemstar's EPG data.

Two TWC representatives could not be reached by CEDaily's deadlines.

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