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McDowell Cautions FCC About Getting Into Arbitration Business - Broadcasting & Cable

McDowell Cautions FCC About Getting Into Arbitration Business

Says commission confined by statute when looking at retrans disputes
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FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell suggested the FCC needs to
tread carefully in its inquiry into the retransmission consent process, saying
suggestions it get into the arbitration business might not sit well with the
courts.

In a meeting with reporters Friday (April 23) at the FCC in
Washington, McDowell said that the 1992 Cable Act is clear that simply asking
for more money does not constitute bad faith, and that the FCC is confined by
statute to looking at whether retrans negotiations are being conducted in good
or bad faith. "The statute is actually very clear" on that point, he
said.

He also pointed out that the "vast majority" of
retrans deals are done without incident. "We want to continue to encourage
parties to come to agreement on their own. I do have concerns that if the
commission set up a regime for arbitration here at the commission, that that
might not survive on appeal.

A group of cable operators and satellite companies
petitioned the FCC to remake the retrans regime, including preventing stations
from pulling signals during retrans impasses, possible outside arbitration and
even mandating unbundling station retrans deals from co-owned cable channels.

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