In a letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski Wednesday, Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, advised the commission that marketplace negotiations were best left to the marketplace.
Barton's letter followed one from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) advising the commission that the government needs to step in to protect consumers and fix what he has long said is a broken process.
WABC-TV in New York has threatened to pull its signal March 7 if it fails to reach an agreement with Cablevision Systems, metro New York's predominant cable operator, on a retransmission-consent deal for the station.
"[G]overnment-forced arbitration or other regulatory meddling should be seen for what they are: attempts by parties to get a leg up in a private negotiation," Barton wrote. "Pay TV providers have more sources of content and programmers have more sources of distribution than ever before," he said. "In light of this competitive marketplace, justification for government intervention has all but evaporated."
Rebecca Campbell, president and general manager of WABC-TV, gave Barton a shout-out for his stand.
"In his letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Representative Joe Barton, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made clear the vital importance of market-based negotiations in preserving viewers' interests in a competitive and diverse media marketplace. Unfortunately, Cablevision's refusal to reach a fair and reasonable agreement and its recent efforts to undermine the negotiation process runs counter to that principle. We thank Ranking Member Barton for standing up for our viewers."
Kerry in his letter said broadcasters should not get to pull those signals unless they have first complained to the FCC that cable operators are not operating in good faith and the FCC has concluded the complaint has merit.