Genachowski Backs Legislative Look At Retrans
Suggests arbitration, standstills could be among changes to prevent viewers being 'pawns' in retrans disputes
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/29/2010 6:13:55 PM
That came in a letter to Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has proposed legislation to revamp the system.
"I agree with you that recent events raise issues of real concern. Negotiations between broadcasters and pay television providers have become increasingly fractious and we are now in the midst of an impasse resulting in a sustained blackout. I share your concern that the current system relegates television viewers to pawns between companies battling over retransmission fees," Genachowski said in a letter released by Kerry.
"Under the present system, the FCC has very few tools with which to protect consumers' interests in the retransmission consent process. Congress granted the FCC limited ability to encourage agreement by ensuring that the parties negotiate in good faith," Genachowski continued. "But current law does not give the agency the tools necessary to prevent service disruptions. Accordingly, I agree that it is time for Congress to revisit the current retransmission law and assess whether changes in the marketplace call for new tools to strike the appropriate balance of private negotiations and consumer protection. Such tools might include, for example, mandatory mediation and binding arbitration, which could prevent the kind of unfortunate stalemate that now exists between Cablevision and Fox."
He also said the FCC would "continue to push Fox and Cablevision to resolve their dispute.
"The FCC today made it clear they agree Congress must revisit the current retransmission law and assess whether changes in the marketplace call for reform," said Kerry.
As required by the FCC, ~1,700 local television stations (that would be every full power TV station in the country) were mandated – required without any expectation of being paid for the cost – to convert to digital television last year (does no one remember that???). Taking this fact a step further… these very same local broadcasters (most every single one of them), working with their affiliated networks, are offering the highest quality HDTV available in the markets they operate within for free. FREE HDTV!
Parallel to the above mandate (the ‘digital transition’), the consumer electronics industry was mandated - required without any expectation of being paid for the cost – to include digital television receivers in every television set sold since 2003. That means that virtually every HDTV set that exists in a home in the United States today has the means to be ‘hooked up’ to an antenna as the means to grab FREE HDTV! Additionally, the U.S. government laid out ~ $1.5billion to ensure that any American that wanted to convert up to two of their existing television sets to digital have the means to do so at a cost of less than $40 per set.
So I have to ask the question? What is the fuss about? And why is it that people seem to think the government should ‘jump in’ to solve a problem that doesn’t exist (don’t get me started on that one!)? There is absolutely no reason the government needs to have any level of involvement. Broadcasters and consumer electronics companies and the U.S. government have already paid the price to ensure that those that want free “over-the-air” television have access to it. Today! Since when is it the role of government to ensure that the public has access to cable television programming?
Let's take this a step further. In the ‘interest’ of the American consumer, that FREE “over-the-air” television broadcast (already paid for an built out) is (most likely) HDTV. All it requires is a little initiative to stick an antenna up.
Keep the government out of business deals and we’ll all be much better off!
Mark Aitken - 11/1/2010 2:38:03 PM EDT
These are not like cutting off the water supply to a town, or the air supply to a mine.
They are simply business matters, between suppliers and customers...of ONE business. It's not a life-or-death matter. The FCC (government) should stay out of it.
Ken English - 10/30/2010 12:12:55 PM EDT
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