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FCC eases DTV transition for cable subscribers

September 12th, 2007

For cable customers, the digital TV transition just got much simpler. Under rules approved by the FCC Tuesday night, most cable subscribers, including those without digital cable, will continue receiving local stations after the shutoff of analog TV broadcasts on February 17, 2009.

In the absence of the rule change, many analog cable customers may have lost access to certain local broadcast channels or been forced to get a digital cable box. Instead, the FCC will require cable systems to offer “must-carry” stations in both analog and digital form, unless the system is entirely digital. (Must-carry stations are typically independent or public television stations that, upon a station owner’s request, a cable company is required to carry. Network-affiliated commercial stations, however, typically negotiate carriage agreements with cable operators.)

Bottom line for cable subscribers: Whatever kind of cable service or television you have, you should be able to continue watching local channels after the DTV switchover in 2009. There is one exception, though: Small cable systems will be permitted to apply for waivers from the FCC that would allow them to drop local stations from analog cable channel slots. If granted, some of their subscribers will need digital cable boxes.

The FCC’s dual-carriage rules are set to expire in 2012. The commission could choose to renew the rules, although by then more cable systems can be expected to be all-digital and more subscribers will own digital TVs.

• Link: AP

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