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C-SPAN's Fate Rests On FCC Decision Over 'Dual Must Carry'
Mon Nov 17 2003 09:55:55 ET

ROLL CALL reported on Monday: For more than a decade, a furious battle has raged between American cable and broadcast operators over the future of the nation's television. It has led to much animosity, more than a few lawsuits and one Supreme Court case.

And with the next round of this fight scheduled to be decided on by the end of the year by the Federal Communications Commission, C-SPAN is one cable network whose fate could be determined by the impending vote of the five FCC commissioners.

The current debate revolves around the idea of 'dual must carry,' a proposal that would govern the cable industry's role in the transition to digital television in America. On one side are the broadcasters, who want cable providers to carry both their analog and digital signals during the transition to ensure that they build their digital audience while not disenfranchising their existing analog viewers.

On the other side are cable operators who argue that mandating 'dual must carry' will result in fewer choices for their cable customers.

In recent weeks, FCC Chairman Michael Powell, as well as other members of the agency, have made it clear that they want to have a final decision on dual must carry before the end of the year.

Although FCC spokeswoman Michelle Russo said she could not name an exact date the provision would be voted on, she did say that the five commissioners are hearing arguments on both sides and that 'things are fluid right now.' She said that Powell has made it clear that 'nothing is locked in...he said it would be nice to have [the provision] on the December agenda.'


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