FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Wednesday
suggested that consumer rights have become a chew toy in the retrans fight
between media big dogs.
"[I]f the Fox-Cablevision dispute
proves anything, it is that consumers are clearly not being protected," he
said in a statement on the ongoing retrans battle that has seen Fox
stations in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia go dark on Cablevision
systems, as well as some of Fox's cable nets.
In a statement, Copps said that the
commission needs to take a hard look at what negotiating in good faith means in
"a fast-changing media landscape with the big players maneuvering to see
how they can create new business models that will give them the upper hand over
their rivals going forward."
By statute, the FCC's role in such negotiations is
limited to ensuring the parties are bargaining in good faith.
"But the FCC is a consumer protection
agency," he said, a point FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has made
repeatedly as well.
"I believe the Commission should take a very
serious look at whether ‘good faith' negotiations are indeed occurring. What,
indeed, does ‘good faith' mean in the dog-eat-dog world of big media? If
such talks are not taking place, we should move promptly to protect
consumers," he said.
Copps also latched on to the online angle, prompted by Fox's
decision to briefly block Cablevision sub access to Fox content online.
"For a broadcaster to pull programming from the Internet for a cable
company's subscribers, as apparently happened here, directly threatens the open
Internet," he said.