The Supreme Court has thrown yet another stick into the spokes of a smooth-running cable TV operation with its decision not to reconsider Cablevision's appeal of longstanding must-carry rules. By refusing to change the rules--or even to listen to why the rules should be changed--the court has opened the door for broadcasters to demand space for their channels and ask cable operators to pay for them.
At the same time, the broadcasters themselves are faced with a rough road transitioning to digital over-the-air television and are becoming more reliant on cable, telco and satellite providers to get their signals to the masses rather than using more conventional over-the-air methods. That, in turn, has the FCC looking at what broadcasters call a "spectrum grab" where the Commission would reallocate 120 MHz (or 20 channels worth) of broadcast spectrum for wireless as part of the national broadband plan, arguing that the broadcasters aren't really delivering much content over the air and cable can pick up the slack.
If that happens, broadcasters would be increasingly dependent on cable TV operators to carry their signals and might actually load more over-the-air signals onto limited cable bandwidth. Ominously, perhaps, the Obama administration stepped into the case, urging the court to stay away from any changes because broadcast carriage on cable systems "remains critical to the broadcast stations' financial viability generally."
Discovery Channel joins evolving must-carry court fight
Mandatory cable carriage rules back before the Courts
Broadcasters, consumers not pleased with FCC spectrum grab