According to a copy of the "dear colleague" letter to
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking him to open a rulemaking
on retransmission consent reform, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Peter
King (R-N.Y.) were able to secure 11 of their House colleagues' signatures.
Cable operators had been pushing the letter in hopes of getting
the commission to step in and, among other things, mandate standstill
agreements during retrans impasses so cable operators can keep broadcast
signals on their systems after contracts have expired if deals have not been
Cable operators, telcos and satellite companies filed a petition
for that rulemaking last March.
In the letter, dated July 27, they said it was "time to
"reexamine [the] rules governing retransmission consent and act to protect
consumers." Cable operators have increasingly framed the issue in terms of
consumers. The Obama administration has been positioning regulatory agencies as
primarily in the consumer protection business.
Focusing on the majority of members who did not sign on, National
Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton responded: "We're
pleased that an overwhelming majority of Congress appears to understand that
broadcasters provide valuable content to pay TV providers, and that keeping
government out of private negotiations between two business interests is the
best way to guarantee a successful outcome to retransmission consent