Broadcasters Get Retrans Support From Markey, Dingell

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Broadcasters have some Democratic friends in high places on the issues of retransmission consent and multi-cast must-carry.

At a National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference Tuesday, Colin Crowell, veteran House Energy & Commerce Committee staffer to Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey, said  broadcasters have the right to withhold their signal if they cannot come to terms with cable systems over carriage.

Crowell said that some Hill concern over retrans battles, like that involving Sinclair and Mediacom, for example, stems from the anxiety that when the stand-off becomes an OK Corral-like fight, the remedy is to shoot the hostage--the viewer.

Crowell said that he would be surprised if the issue of retransmission consent was not raised in a "future of video" oversight hearing the subcommittee planned to hold sometime in the spring.

On the issue of multicast must-carry, Crowell suggested that a braodcaster commitment to DTV public interest obligations would allow Markey to support multicast must-carry.

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), who also spoke at the conference, said he, too, believed that broadcasters still had the right to negotiate carriage in an open marketplace (a big applause line from the audience), but added the caveat that they needed to keep the best interests of consumers in mind.

Elsewhere during the conference, a Republican staffer added his own caveat, which was that while retrnansmission consent was an open negoitation, must-carry was not.

In another speech to the conference, broadcaster and Telecommunications Subcommittee member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) warned that activist Democrats might extract so much in the way of DTV obligations that multicast channels would look more like a cable public access channel than a commercially viable enterprise.


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