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Intervention in Retrans Impasse Gains Traction in D.C.; Kerry Has Bill Ready

Oct 20, 2010  •  Post A Comment

Federal legislators have been expressing frustration at the continuing retransmission dispute between Cablevision and Fox, and that frustration is quickly developing into action, according to Radio Business Report.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., reportedly has readied a draft of legislation to regulate the negotiation process, which he appears poised to fast-track through the current congressional session, the story reports.

“Kerry’s bill would prevent programmers from pulling their offerings during the negotiation process, even if existing contracts have expired, and would throw arbitration into the mix as an option,” the story says.

At the heart of the Cablevision-Fox standoff and the issue as a whole are the rates broadcasters charge cable operators for the rights to transmit their programming–retransmission fees. Cable operators are allowed to pass along any rate increases to their subscribers, who often get caught in the middle of the disputes.

Another proponent of arbitration is Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge, who spoke out today during a session of the CTAM Conference in New Orleans.

Rutledge noted that while his own company fared well last quarter, the industry overall has been losing multichannel subscribers.

The economic climate, he said, makes it difficult to raise cable rates. “Broadcasters want to monetize over the backs of people who can’t afford it,” Rutledge told conference attendees.

Rutledge welcomes some form of government involvement in negotiations, the question being to what degree. He noted that broadcasters already are subject to government regulation through their public licenses, and indicated that it makes sense to include arbitration as a part of that process.

5 Comments

  1. This is issue is just going to get bigger. How do you think Comcast will deal with its competitors when NBCU comes up for negotiation, with rights to NFL, Olympics and other major sports. DirecTV wasn’t able to carry the NHL most of this season because they couldn’t resolve the retransmission fees for Versus which is owned by Comcast. The loser is the subscriber who can’t see any National NHL broadcasts. Comcast is wickedly sly about all of this and no one is paying attention.

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