Ferree Fall? Beltway Pundits See Slow Road Ahead for DTV Plan December 3, 2004 12:00am Source: Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved. CableFAX Daily: The so-called Ferree Plan for the digital TV transition appears to have stalled in recent weeks. That was the consensus Wed at a Media Institute panel that discussed the regulatory outlook for media-always a favorite DC parlor game. "I get a sense that the momentum the plan had gathered in different parts of Washington has slowed down," said Stanford Financial Group's Paul Gallant. "I think there is a greater chance now than 18 months ago that [the transition] is something Congress will deal with." DTV is not expected to be on the Commission's Dec 15 agenda, which will be released next week. One of the Ferree plan's more controversial aspects continues to be a multicast must carry requirement, with a federal court recently requiring (per a Paxson request) that the FCC explain in 30 days why it hasn't ruled on the issue. "The court making them respond puts [the Commission] on the spot," said Legg Mason's David Kaut. He expects the FCC's response to focus on the nebulous nature of the matter, noting that the House and Senate have passed different versions of legislation that would impact the transition and multicasting. Most of the panel's analysts discounted House Commerce chmn Joe Barton's wish to have the DTV transition come to an end in '06, saying the '09 timeframe set forth in the Ferree Plan is still the most likely scenario. Although there is a "real wild card," warned Kaut. "If we have another terrorist attack ... [Congress] is going to want that spectrum quickly, at least the public safety spectrum." The White House seems keen on moving the DTV transition along and getting back that valuable analog spectrum. On Tues, Pres Bush introduced a spectrum policy initiative that recommends the formation of a Spectrum Management Advisory Committee that would increase private sector input into spectrum policy issues. Horizontal Ownership: When it comes to cable horizontal ownership rules, the FCC would probably like to put a 35-40% cap in place, but the problem is that it doesn't have the record there for such a rule to withstand legal scrutiny, Gallant suggested. The horizontal rules, struck down by a federal court 3 years ago, limited a cable company to 30% of all pay TV subs. It's possible that the FCC may set a 35-40% soft cap that would make any company who wanted to increase its size beyond the cap to really have to show why it would be in the public interest, Gallant said. Telecom Rewrite: Several analysts predicted that any revamp of the '96 Telecom Act wouldn't be ready until '06 or '07. "The more they try to include beyond telecom, the harder it will be to get it done," Gallant said. And perhaps they're won't be too many sweeping changes for the Bells. "They [the Bells] are getting a lot broadband deregulation through at the FCC," Kaut said. "That takes away some of the urgency on the Hill, although they obviously want to level the playing field with cable." [Copyright 2004 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.] <<CableFAX Daily -- 12/02/04>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.