FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said Tuesday that small and
medium sized cable operators are part of the "lifeblood" of the
American economy, calling small businesses "the little engines that
actually run this country." She also said that if the market isn't
working, the FCC needs to step in on the retrans issue, though she did not
say whether or not she thought it was working.
Clyburn was addressing the American Cable Association's
annual summit in Washington
"I fully understand the intent of the retrans
rules, and that market forces should be allowed to work," she said,
according to a prepared text. "But I am on the lookout for the consumers
in this country, and if the market isn't working, we need to consider taking
The FCC has proposed a number of tweaks to the rules,
including a clearer definition of what is and isn't negotiating in good faith
and proposing getting rid of the network nonduplication and syndicated
exclusivity rules, which currently prevent cable operators from having the
competitive alternative of importing competing affiliates of the same
network or similarly situated out-of-market stations if they reach
impasses with broadcasters.
While Clyburn suggested she was sympathetic to ACA's
concerns about the retrans system--ACA was a driving force behind
the petition that launched the FCC retrans rulemaking--she said the
FCC was limited in what it could do. "we are attempting to tweak the
retransmission consent regime with the tools we have as provided to us by
Congress, which has the ultimate say as to what we can and can't do," she
She said ACA's members often reach people and places
that are taken for granted. "Rural residents deserve high-speed broadband,
HDTV, next-generation internet, and phone service
just as much as the most well-to-do Manhattanite," she said.
She asked the operators to do their part to help by
"doing what you ca to maintain reasonable costs for those subscribers and
small business owners."
For her part, she reminded the crowd that the FCC in the
Comcast/NBCU merger had created baseball-style arbitration for program and
carriage disputes for operators with 1.5 million subs or fewer. She also said
she felt it was "crucial" for systems with 600,000 subs or fewer
to be able to recover the costs of arbitration from Comcast/NBCU if they win.
Earlier in the day, ACA President Matt Polka reiterated
that ACA would closely monitor the fulfillment of those conditions.
Clyburn said she would be a "cop on the beat" in that regard as well,
adding: "I expect to hear from you, should anything occur that escapes my
The FCC has until the end of the year to come up with rules
to implement the CALM (Commercial
Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act. ACA is concerned about the impact
(read cost) of those technological mandates on its members. "I recognize
that this rulemaking may place a burden on a number of you," she said,
also pointing out the fact that there is a waiver for financial hardship.
"I must stress that I look for every possible way to lessen the load on
smaller companies, each time I review the language of any new
regulations. I'm always cognizant of the financial impact that one of our
orders can have, and this will remain true during our review of the CALM
Act, our Video Description proceeding, and anything we do relating to
the AllVid proposal in the National Broadband Plan."