Cable Operators, Satellite Distributors Appeal to FCC and Congress About Retransmission Fee Negotiations and Disputes

Mar 10, 2010  •  Post A Comment

A consortium of cable operators and satellite distributors, with Time Warner Cable in the lead, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to intervene in what they say is a broken retransmission consent system, a number of media outlets our reporting.

The group has also written letters about the situation to select U.S. Representatives and Senators.

The distributors are arguing that broadcasters shouldn’t be allowed to yank signals in the middle of a negotiation, as happened Sunday in the dispute between ABC and Cablevision. Viewers missed the opening minutes of the Academy Awards before the signal was restored. Among those in Congress who received the letters were Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

According to TVNewsCheck, "In addition to Time Warner, the petitioners include Bright House, Cablevision, Charter, DirecTV, Dish Network, Insight Communications, Mediacom, Suddenlink, the American Cable Association and the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies."

TVNewsCheck also notes two glaring omissions from the list of petitioners: "the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and Comcast. The latter is in the process of acquiring NBC Universal and its TV station group and is NCTA’s largest member."

According to the account in the New York Times, the petitioners "are asking the F.C.C. to allow for the government to step in more firmly during retransmission disputes, using a tool like mandatory arbitration or an ‘expert tribunal.’ They also want the F.C.C. to require stations to keep sending a signal as long as the provider ‘continues to negotiate in good faith.’ " 

According to the Times, "The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents stations, responded by saying that retransmission revenues ‘help local TV stations fund news operations, community service and life-saving weather information that viewers across America rely on every day.’

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