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Broadcast Services

One of our speciality areas revolves around Program Substitution, Carriage Priorities, and Restricted Channels. These topics are more highly related and interconnected than most people imagine. The definitions of the various terms often adds to the complexity and usually in a confusing fashion.

An example, since corrected, illustrates what I am driving at. One section of the Regulations used the word “identical” very specifically to describe the similarity of two or more programs, conveying to the reader a certain understanding, while another section defined “identical” to mean something other than being identical within the conventional meaning of the word. Without understanding the new meaning of the word a misunderstanding was a likely result. And, in many cases, words used to define a term are often defined themselves in other parts of the same Regulations, compounding the problem.

When it come to priority carriage on a cable system (Yes! I understand that it is a broadcast distribution undertaking and not a cable television system.) most people assume that it is the station that is the priority when in fact it is the programming of that station that is the priority.

Let me explain that the technical parameters of the station establish the priority of the station. If you look closely at the Regulations you will see not-so-subtle change to the carriage of the programming, not the station. This in itself has some unexpected ramifications.

I recommend to private broadcasters that they know where they are carried and what their priority is on each system. A few other things go along with that but you get the idea. In one case a broadcaster requested a study on two of their stations. One station turned up nothing that they did not already know. The other station was a different matter. At the time the station enjoyed penetration to about 1.8 million homes through over-the-air or cable carriage. It was understood that in most of this market other broadcasters enjoyed a higher priority. What the broadcaster did not realize was the fact in most of the market it had no priority. The report showed that their entitlement was restricted to about 77,000 homes.

The study was undertaken at a time when demands were being made on the carriage capacity of cable systems. The operators of the station understood for the first time what was likely to occur in the next few years. Their worst fears unfolded as predicted. In the intervening time they changed the focus of the station and its operation, minimizing the impact on their bottom line.

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