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On Second Thought…

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initially declined to comment Monday morning after a group of cable programmers filed a lawsuit against the agency over a new rule that forces most MSOs to deliver "must carry" broadcast networks in digital and analog format after the Feb. 2009 transition. That part of the rule applies to operators that do not exempt themselves by going all-digital by the cutover date. So that means almost all of them. (See Cable Programmers Sue FCC .)

Later in the day, following a scathing response from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) arguing that the programmer lawsuit amounts to "reneging" on the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) commitment to the transition, an FCC spokeswoman issued a statement noting that the order aims to ensure that all local broadcast stations carried pursuant to the 1992 Cable Act are "viewable" by all cable subscribers.

"The Commissioner's Order made sure that the over 40 million cable subscribers with analog cable will continue to receive the same broadcast stations after the transition," she added. "All Americans with cable – regardless of whether they are analog or digital subscribers – should be able to watch the same broadcast stations the day after the digital transition that they were watching the day before the transition."

While the statement doesn't come right out and denounce the lawsuit, it's obvious that the FCC doesn't agree with the position of the cable programmers. Plus, we'll give the agency some credit for going beyond PR 101 and issuing something other than the usual we-believe-this-lawsuit-is-without-merit-and-we-intend-to-fight-it-vigorously line. Or something like that.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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