Dingell Gram: Finish Retrans by End of Year

Review could be completed before Dec. 31 contract expirations

Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.)
have called on the FCC to complete its retransmission consent review by the end
of the year, which would be before the next round of Dec. 31 contract

Dingell did not weigh in on the substance of the issue
beyond saying that the FCC's recognition of its limited authority suggested it
could get the item moved by the end of the year deadline, though he did say
that "reasonable action by the commission" would "provide
greater certainty in the video marketplace and ultimately benefit the American

Broadcasters argue the system is working just fine, with
few actual signal blackouts and the higher retrans fees a reflection of
broadcasters finally getting closer to the real value of their signal.

Emerson went beyond the date issue to hit on points
raised by American Television Alliance (cable operators, satellite operators
and others), which petitioned the FCC to open the retrans review.

She said she had heard from some of her state's smaller
pay-TV providers about the possibility of increased signal losses due to
impasses and consumer disaffection and dislocation.

Emerson was all for new rules of the road for retrans.
"With more than a thousand carriage deals set to expire by the end of this
year," she said, "it is essential that the commission have new rules
in place to help avoid the types of carriage disruptions for consumers that
we've seen increasingly occur."

Public comments on the FCC's retrans proposals are due
May 27. The FCC has proposed clarifying what constitutes good fair
negotiations, which it is empowered to enforce, as well as whether it should
get rid of the syndicated exclusivity and network nonduplication rules to give
cable operators an out-of-market alternative to negotiate with if they reach
impasses with local stations over carriage.