As the retrans back-and-forth built up a head
of steam Tuesday, the National Association of Broadcasters added its voice to the
crescendo of comment.
"As history has shown, 99.9 percent of these
deals are reached without disruption. We don't have a broken
system," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton, "we have a broken
pay-TV company that likes to play Washington games. Broadcasters and pay-TV
operators share a mutual interest in reaching a fair, market-oriented carriage
deal. Only when one party shifts their focus, pleading to government instead of
negotiating fairly, does that mutual desire dissolve."
Wharton did not cite Sen. John Kerry, only saying
that the statement was regarding "the fair, market-based carriage
negotiation process known as retransmission consent," but it followed by
only an hour or so the news that Kerry had sent a copy of draft retransmission
consent legislation to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying it was meant
to "reform" a "broken system."
That bill would have the FCC step in to keep TV
station signals on the air during retrans impasses and try to help broker,
though not mandate, an agreement.
Separately, broadcasters are reportedly seeking
some legislators to sign onto a letter to the FCC asking it to keep out of
a retrans process that is fair, suggesting the only thumb on the scale
would be the government's if it chose to insert itself.
Genachowski weighed in again Tuesday (he released
a statement early Sunday after Fox stations were pulled from Cablevision
systems in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia Oct. 15). The chairman said he
had talked to the CEOs of both companies and wanted Cablevision and Fox to cut
out the "petty gamesmanship." Fox had no comment on the
characterization and a Cablevision spokesperson had not returned a call for
comment at press time.