Martin Comes Home

Undoubtedly exhausted from processing all those pesky cable waiver requests on the integrated set-top security ban in DC, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin came home to North Carolina yesterday to talk about, of all things, analog cable viewers.

Speaking at a North Carolina Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Raleigh Thursday, Martin, a Tar Heel native, confided to the crowd that he's really worried about the upcoming DTV transition for broadcasters.

While he sees "lots of potential upsides" for consumers in the move to digital, he said he's increasingly concerned about "the potential negative effects" for analog set owners. And he's particularly concerned about the nation's 32 million analog cable subscribers, those poor lost souls who still don't have digital cable set-top boxes in their homes.

Although it's still "unclear" how all these analog cable customers will be affected by the DTV switcheroo in Feb. 2009, "we have to figure out how to do everything we can to minimize the negative impact," Martin declared. But he didn't suggest any new ways that the Commission might find to do that.

What's Martin got in mind? More dual must-carry rules for cable operators? Cable-backed subsidies for digital set-top upgrades? Some other "market-based solution?" Whatever it is, it sure looks like something's coming. Stay tuned.

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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