Coalition Praises Retrans Roundtable


The Coalition To Reform Retransmission Consent Wednesday praised House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) for agreeing to hold a retransmission consent reform "roundtable."

That came after a retransmission consent-related amendment the coalition had supported was not introduced during markup of a national video franchising bill, a victory for broadcasters, though one that had been widely anticipated.

The coalition, which includes Advance/Newhouse Communications, Cox Communications, Discovery Communications, Hallmark Channels, Insight Communications, Oxygen Media, and Suddenlink Communications, expressed its gratitude to Republican Reps. Nathan Deal (Georgia) and Charles Bass (New Hampshire) for their "leadership and hard work."

Deal motormanned an effort to add retransmission consent reforms to the national video franchising bill, but Barton has said the issue was a nonstarter. After a discussion among Deal, Bass, and Barton Wednesday, his amendment was not introduced, but apparently the roundtable was promised. Chairmen frequently promise continued discussions as a quid pro quo for not introducing a potentially contentiois amendment.

Deal spearheaded a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin back in December suggesting that the commission should reconsider retrans as it works through the issue of family-friendly tiers and a la carte cable service.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has pushed both as a way to give consumers, particularly parents, more control over cable content as a response to activist group concerns about indecent programming.

The cable industry countered by offering family friendly tiers voluntarily, but says unbundling its channels from service tiers will essentially unravel its business model and disadvantage smaller nets that depend on being bundled to gain carriage.

In the letter, Deal, Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and six other House members wrote of their concerns that retrans deals--in which broadcasters negotiate compensation for carriage of their TV stations on cable--have helped drive the bundling of family-friendly and unfriendly channels. That's because many deals involve not cash but agreements to carry co-owned cable networks, FX for the Fox stations, for example, or MSNBC for NBC stations.