Look for Charles Segars of Ovation to be on the witness list for the Nov. 17 retransmission consent hearing, according to a source familiar with the invitation.
The Senate Communications Subcommittee is holding the hearing in the wake of the Fox/Cablevision retrans dispute, which helped prompt Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) to draw up legislation that would impose outside arbitration and standstill agreements during impasses.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski back in May, Segars called for retrans reform. He argued that facing increased fees for TV stations, distributors will look to pass along the increases to consumers, but for competitive reasons may also have to look to cutting costs by deleting independent channels like his. "As retrans gets more expensive," he argued, "diversity in media will decrease, and with it a small part of our freedom."
Segars told B&C/Multi at about the same time
that "when a Disney comes in and holds a cable operator hostage for an
extraordinarily high license fee, particularly when those programming
services, at the midnight hour, pull the signals, it is very difficult
for a cable operator to figure out how they
are going to find the money to pay those fees out in the long tail of
Segars will speak on behalf of independent programmers at a hearing also expected to feature representatives
of Fox, Cablevision, and perhaps a representative of a top-five cable
operator (Time Warner Cable would be an obvious choice given its very
public push for retrans reform).
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has signaled to Kerry that he supports a congressional review of retrans, but it is unclear whether or not he will be invited or in attendance. He is currently scheduled to be speaking at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco Nov. 17. An FCC spokesperson declined comment on
whether the chairman had been invited to the hearing.