[opendtv] News: Ferree Fall? Beltway Pundits See Slow Road Ahead for DTV Plan

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 Dec 2004 08:36:54 -0500

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>>

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