FCC commissioner Michael Copps Wednesday suggested that consumer rights have become a chew toy in the retrans fight between media big dogs.
[I]f the Fox-Cablevision dispute proves anything, it is that consumers are clearly not being protected," he said in a statement on the ongoing retrans battle that has seen Fox stations and some of its cable neteorks go dark on the MSO's systems in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
In a statement, Copps said that the commission needs to take a hard look at what negotiating in good faith means in "a fast-changing media landscape with the big players maneuvering to see how they can create new business models that will give them the upper hand over their rivals going forward."
By statute, the FCC's role in such negotiations is limited to insuring the parties are bargaining in good faith.
"But the FCC is a consumer protection agency," he said, a point FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has made repeatedly as well.
"I believe the Commission should take a very serious look at whether ‘good faith' negotiations are indeed occurring. What, indeed, does ‘good faith' mean in the dog-eat-dog world of big media? If such talks are not taking place, we should move promptly to protect consumers," he said.
Copps also latched on to the online angle, prompted by Fox's decision to briefly block Cablevision sub access to the programmer's digital content. "For a broadcaster to pull programming from the Internet for a cable company's subscribers, as apparently happened here, directly threatens the open Internet," he said.