Sports Fans Weigh In on Retrans Impasses - Broadcasting & Cable

Sports Fans Weigh In on Retrans Impasses

Coalition filing says pulling broadcast signals in retransmission consent rows is against public interest
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The Sports Fan Coalition has asked the FCC to keep broadcasters from pulling signals during retrans impasses, saying it is in the public's interest and pointing out that sports stadiums are often built with their tax money.

That came in a filing June 14 in the FCC's retransmission consent docket. The coalition includes former Bush and Clinton officials, a sports writer, a public advocacy executive and a couple thousand members, according to David Goodfriend, one of the driving forces behind the group and a former EchoStar executive. (Goodfriend is also a former Clinton administration and Hill staffer.)

"The record in this proceeding reveals a battle between broadcast media conglomerates and the pay-TV companies that distribute their programming. The Commission needs to protect a group of people who pay their bills and contribute to ratings but have become collateral damage in this corporate smack-down: sports fans," they wrote.

They argue the best solution for fans would be for the commission to prohibit broadcasters from pulling signals, what they call "blocking access to sporting events."

Broadcasters have argued that removing their ability to remove their signals from cable systems after the contract to do so runs out would amount to the government prejudging negotiations in favor of cable operators. Goodfriend points out that the coalition has weighed in against cable operators, too, on the issue of access to sports programming.

The coalition has tapped Media Access Project for guidance, the Computer & Communications Industry Association for in-kind legal help, and has gotten money from Verizon, but none of those advisors have control over the group, says Goodfriend.

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