Broadcast lobbyists are looking to line up legislators to weigh in at the FCC on their side of the retrans debate between Fox and Cablevision, according to a copy of proposed language for the letter obtained by B&C/Multi.Fox declined to comment on that language, but up until now it has been Cablevision drumming up most of the mail from legislators, national and local, calling for keeping signals on and outside arbitration for the dispute, which has kept Fox stations in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia off Cablevision systems since Oct. 15.
It is common practice for lobbyists to suggest language for such letters.
The imbalance of correspondence calling for FCC action vs. inaction, is understandable since legislators are hardly eager to face unhappy constituents around election time unable to get cable access to football and baseball games.
“As you know, these negotiations attempt to achieve a very delicate balance between two sizeable media companies. Please do not put the heavy thumb of the government on one side of the scale or the other,” a draft of the letter says, according to a copy supplied to B&C/Multi. “As with any business negotiation, talks about the terms of retransmission consent can, at times, get quite contentious with each side seeking the upper hand. Any government intervention would not only skew this process, but would color all future retransmission consent negotiations…. There is no justification for government intervention.”
Broadcasters, even if, for the sake of argument, they have contract law and current FCC rules on their side, have a harder case to make in the court of public opinion in the heat of pennant races and head-banging NFL hits viewers may be missing.