Levin Seeks More Clarification From NAB

Needs more info on issues related to the impact of spectrum allocations on retrans consent negotiations

FCC broadband advisor Blair Levin says he still needs more clarification from the National Association of Broadcasters on issues related to the impact of spectrum allocations on retransmission consent negotiations, according to a source.

Levin had asked NAB Executive VP Jane Mago for public clarification that the association, in an October meeting with him, were arguing they needed their entire bitstream to get full value from multichannel video operators in retransmission consent negotiations.

Levin has been talking with broadcasters about the possibility of redirecting some of that stream toward wireless broadband.

Mago responded that broadcasters' point was that over-the-HD was serving the twin goals of keeping "multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) subscriber costs in check" by providing an alternative, free source, and providing a revenue source for broadcasters because "MVPDs also recognize the importance of HD such that it has recently become an important element in retransmission consent negotiations."

In a letter expected to be sent to NAB Thursday, Levin asks the association for a response, to be filed publicly, clarifying points Mago made in her response to his initial inquiry. He wants her to 1) explain what studies or other support NAB had for asserting that over-the-air signals were a governor on cable and satellite pricing, and 2) provide Mago's reaction to the alternate view that retrans fees increase the cost of MVPD service to consumers because it boost's MVPD costs, which are then passed along to the customer.

The back-and-forth is playing out publicly because Levin sought the clarification as a supplement to a public disclosure form that must be filed following any ex parte communications with members of the commission, like broadcasters' October meeting.