SBD/Issue 62/Sports Media

FCC To Examine How To Prevent Loss Of Channels During Disputes


FCC Media Bureau Chief William Lake yesterday said that the commission will "look at what the government can do to help prevent customers from losing television channels during disputes between pay-TV operators and broadcast station owners," according to Amy Schatz of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Lake said that the FCC "will next year study whether it could better protect consumers during the fee disputes, also known as 'retransmission consent' negotiations." However, though the FCC "plans to re-examine its rules next year, that's no guarantee that the agency will actually change them." The FCC "has broad rules governing the retransmission-consent process that basically requires both sides to negotiate in good faith." Lake said that the organization "would look at how it should better define what it considers 'good faith' and possibly require cable operators, broadcasters and others to tell consumers farther in advance when there is a possibility they could temporarily lose access to some TV channels." Schatz notes a dispute between Cablevision and News Corp. in October "left three million cable customers in the New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas without access to Fox television stations for more than two weeks" during the MLB postseason (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/9). The AP's Joelle Tessler noted pay-TV providers "want the FCC to adopt new rules that would prohibit broadcasters from interrupting signals during negotiations or before popular events, and mandate binding arbitration in disputes." But given the FCC's position that it has "limited authority," Congress "has been looking at the issue" (AP, 12/8).

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