Chairman Martin Proposes Cable Carriage for New TV Broadcasters

ASPEN, Colo. – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Tuesday offered two proposals that he said would address concerns about objectionable content and add “access to new voices in the media.”

Martin repeated his proposal to require cable operators to sell television programming a la carte, or on a per-channel basis. “The ability to pick and choose among the content being offered them by the cable operators,” he said at the Aspen Forum on Communications and Society here.

Parents would have “much have meaningful choices” in the programming they could watch, he said. Currently, “there is little or no incentive for the market or programmers to respond” to parents’ demands for less racy content.

Martin has previously urged a la carte pricing of cable systems, but Congress has failed to enact that policy.

The second suggestion, as with the first, would come at the expense of the cable industry. As television broadcasters transition to digital television, the ability to broadcast multiple channels of programming would “provide us an opportunity for others to lease some of that capacity,” said Martin.

“I have actually proposed that we specifically allow [minority and small-businesses] to lease some of that capacity,” he said.

“They would be treated just like full power stations,” said Martin, meaning that they would have the obligation to provide public interest obligations, such as three hours of child-oriented programming in a week.

“But they would also have the benefits of cable carriage,” said Martin. That means that these new television stations would enjoy mandatory carriage on cable system even if their over-the-air signals were extremely limited in their power.