A federal appeals court has addressed the FCC’s “Viewability Rule” which required hybrid cable (CATV) companies (i.e., cable companies providing analog and digital cable service) to “downconvert” from digital to analog the signals of must carry broadcast stations for subscribers with analog television sets. The FCC allowed the Viewability Rule to expire in 2012, and adopted a new rule that allows CATV companies to provide conversion equipment to customers with analog televisions. A group of must-carry broadcasters filed suit against the FCC challenging the adoption of the new rule arguing it does not comply with Congress’ mandate that broadcast signals be viewable by CATV subscribers.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied the broadcasters’ petition for review finding the market trend is away from analog CATV service to digital service, the transition of from analog to digital broadcasting is complete, and all new televisions on the market are digital-ready. As a result of these market trends that will continue into the future, the court found the FCC’s rule allowing CATV companies to provide conversion equipment to customers for free or at affordable costs is reasonable.