13 Reps Rap Retransmission Consent

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According to a copy of the "dear colleague" letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski asking him to open a rulemaking on retransmission consent reform, Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) were able to secure 11 of their House colleagues' signatures.

Cable operators had been pushing the letter in hopes of getting the commission to step in and, among other things, mandate standstill agreements during retrans impasses so cable operators can keep broadcast signals on their systems after contracts have expired if deals have not been struck.

A petition for that rulemaking was filed last March by cable operators, telcos and satellite companies.
In the letter, dated July 27, they said it was "time to "reexamine [the]rules governing retransmission consent and act to protect consumers." Cable operators have been increasingly framed the issue in terms of consumers. The Obama administration has been positioning regulatory agencies as primarily in the consumer protection business.

Focusing on the majority of members who did not sign on, National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton responded: "We're pleased that an overwhelming majority of Congress appears to understand that broadcasters provide valuable content to pay TV providers, and that keeping government out of private negotiations between two business interests is the best way to guarantee a successful outcome to retransmission-consent negotiations."

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