Pubcasters complain FCC rules on satellite renewal are ‘antiquated’

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Public broadcasting organizations are asking the FCC to update its process for stations to request carriage on satellite providers.

Stations are now required to renew satellite carriage requests every three years “by the antiquated method of certified mail,” according to comments filed Tuesday by CPB, PBS and America’s Public Television Stations.

“Failure to use the specified certified mail delivery method can result in loss of satellite carriage,” the comments said. DISH Network denied carriage to KMTP in San Francisco in January 2018 because the station’s request was sent by USPS Priority Mail. The FCC sided with DISH and said that KMTP “did not adhere to the commission’s clear and express procedural requirements regarding the manner in which carriage elections must be sent.”

“Hundreds of thousands of members of the public that are DISH subscribers in the San Francisco DMA currently are being denied noncommercial educational public television service as a result of an outdated rule and a clerical error,” the Tuesday filing noted.

The public broadcasters also asked the FCC to “correct a long-standing rule misalignment between the satellite carrier election process and the cable operator election process” for noncom stations.

Public TV stations “do not have retransmission consent rights — only mandatory carriage rights,” the filing said. So those stations “must engage in a rote process, every three years, of ‘electing’ mandatory carriage for satellite carriage,” despite having no other options.

The FCC requested comments as part of its Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, which kicked off in May 2017 to identify rules for revision or elimination.

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