Policy

Is Retransmission-Consent Reform In TV's Future?

1/10/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters took to their
own airwaves last week to argue for
their continued viability in a media world
increasingly focused on over-the-top rather
than over-the-air video, but they couldn’t
resist putting in a plug for keeping the
government out of the retransmissionconsent
process.

As promised, the National Association of
Broadcasters last Tuesday (Jan. 4) launched
a public-service campaign and a website
(TheFutureOfTV.org) to argue that free,
local digital TV has a future. Rather than
leading off with the FCC’s proposal to buy
broadcasters off their spectrum (and, in
some cases, out of the business) to
make way for wireless broadband,
though, its first policy pitch on the
site was about retransmission
consent. The NAB’s message
encouraged Web surfers to contact
their cable operator or legislator if
they “love” their local TV. The NAB
said the government is considering
retransmission-consent policies that
could “jeopardize” free TV’s future.
Partly in response to a petition for
a retrans rulemaking from cable
and satellite operators, the FCC
has signaled it will propose some
changes to the consent regime,
specifi cally, though not necessarily limited
to, clarifying the definition of good-faith
bargaining.

“Pay TV companies make billions in profits
each year, and yet some still refuse to fairly
compensate local stations that provide the
content viewers want the most,” the NAB
said. “Broadcasters want viewers to know
that in the unlikely event that they cannot
make a fair deal and local stations’ shows
are not available on a particular cable or
satellite system, you have choices. Viewers
could could switch pay TV providers or watch
digital TV for free with an antenna or online.”

March