In a parliamentary maneuver taken last night, the FCC essentially killed the so-called “viewability” rule, meaning that cable operators will no longer have to carry must-view channels in both analog and digital starting in December.
The decision had been sought and was cheered by the cable industry, which has been effecting a long, gradual transition from analog to digital broadcast.
The FCC voted to extend the viewability rule, but only for six months, essentially allowing the rule to elapse.
The National Association of Broadcasters was opposed to the action, claiming the possibility of financial harm, and some consumer groups were opposed on the grounds that it might mean higher costs for some subscribers, but the cable industry’s ability to provide services through low-cost DTA boxes and its clear intent to use the reclaimed spectrum to improve broadband services were decisive factors in the FCC’s unanimous vote.
NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell circulated a statement saying: “We commend Chairman Genachowski and other commissioners for the adoption of a forward-looking, pro-consumer order that will promote the deployment of faster broadband and the expansion of new and exciting digital services. With the majority of all households now enjoying digital services, the cable industry will maximize its bandwidth to provide innovative services that connect consumers to things they care about most. And while some customers have yet to make the transition to digital, cable providers will continue to work hard to make that conversion as smooth as possible.”