Carriage-Rule Vote Delayed by FCC


Washington — It is
almost certainly delaying
the inevitable, but
the lone Republican on
the Federal Communications
Commission, Robert
McDowell, has gotten
an extension from the
chairman on his vote —
the last one — on a proposed
order and notice of proposed

FCC sources said
chairman Julius Genachowski granted a 10-day extension.
The item has been on circulation — for votes outside
of the public meeting — since early May and the three
other commissioners have already voted to approve it.

That gave McDowell 10 days to vote the item (until July
29) or he’ll go down as a nonparticipant and the vote will
be closed and the order and notice adopted.

McDowell is said to have problems with the standstill
provision in the order, which provides for carriage during
complaints or payments to programmers who win
carriage complaints in an effort to “true up” what they
should have been paid for the time they weren’t being carried
by a multichannel video-programming distributor.

That delay is just fine with cable operators, who contend
that carriage rules, as well as program-access and
leased-access rules, are no longer necessary given an increasingly
competitive multichannel marketplace.

Without the McDowell vote, the item remains open
and, at least theoretically, votes that have already been
cast can still be changed.

As previously reported, the item sets up a regime for
granting interim carriage during the adjudication of multichannel
video provider program-carriage complaints,
and sets deadlines for dealing with those complaints.

The order contains a framework and legal analysis for
imposing temporary standstills on existing contracts
while program-carriage complaints are pending or compensation
for noncarriage — for example, a channel complaining
that it couldn’t get a contract in the first place
citing discrimination according to affiliation.

Were such a complaint to be upheld, there would be
some form of “true-up” payment for what the operator
would’ve been paying had it agreed to carry the network.