Broadcasters: No Reason For Government Intervention On Retrans

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Broadcast lobbyists are asking a pair of congressmen to rethink their call for changes to the retransmission consent regime, suggesting they were making claims that could not be supported.

In a letter to Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY), lobbyists for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telemundo and the National Association of Broadcasters said the retrans system was fair and there was no justification for government intervention.

They were responding to Israel and King's letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, being circulated among their Hill colleagues for signatures, that asks for a rulemaking on retrans citing "harm to consumers under the present system."

The FCC was petitioned by cable, satellite and telcos to step in, but has not done so yet. Most of those same companies last week launched a new organization, the American Television Alliance, to lobby for retrans reform.
In their response, the broadcasters, saying they were speaking for millions of viewers and thousands of employees, argued that it was a "fair, transparent and market-based system" that was working.

They said there was no evidence to support the congressmen's assertion that, under that system viewers "either lose access to broadcast programming or must bear the increased costs of such programming in the form of higher cable and satellite rates."

They also invoked Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the New York legislators, saying that retrans fees helped "support the emergency services that alert residents to dangerous weather and provide life-saving information during public emergencies, as was demonstrated in the vital role New York City broadcasters played during the 9/11 attack on and around your districts."

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