FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has endorsed a
congressional review of retransmission consent rules, suggesting changes could
include mandatory mediation and binding arbitration.
That came in a letter to Senate Communications
Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has proposed legislation to
revamp the system.
"I agree with you that recent events raise
issues of real concern. Negotiations between broadcasters and pay television
providers have become increasingly fractious and we are now in the midst of an
impasse resulting in a sustained blackout. I share your concern that the
current system relegates television viewers to pawns between companies battling
over retransmission fees," Genachowski said in a letter released by Kerry.
"Under the present system, the FCC has very
few tools with which to protect consumers' interests in the retransmission
consent process. Congress granted the FCC limited ability to encourage agreement
by ensuring that the parties negotiate in good faith," Genachowski
continued. "But current law does not give the agency the tools necessary
to prevent service disruptions. Accordingly, I agree that it is time for
Congress to revisit the current retransmission law and assess whether changes
in the marketplace call for new tools to strike the appropriate balance of
private negotiations and consumer protection. Such tools might include, for
example, mandatory mediation and binding arbitration, which could prevent the
kind of unfortunate stalemate that now exists between Cablevision and
He also said the FCC would "continue to push
Fox and Cablevision to resolve their dispute.
"The FCC today made it clear they agree Congress
must revisit the current retransmission law and assess whether changes in the
marketplace call for reform," said Kerry.