Dingell Gram: Finish Retrans by End of Year

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Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) have called on the FCC to complete its retransmission consent review by the end of the year, which would be before the next round of Dec. 31 contract expirations. 

Dingell did not weigh in on the substance of the issue beyond saying that the FCC's recognition of its limited authority suggested it could get the item moved by the end of the year deadline, though he did say that "reasonable action by the commission" would "provide greater certainty in the video marketplace and ultimately benefit the American consumer."

Broadcasters argue the system is working just fine, with few actual signal blackouts and the higher retrans fees a reflection of broadcasters finally getting closer to the real value of their signal.

Emerson went beyond the date issue to hit on points raised by American Television Alliance (cable operators, satellite operators and others), which petitioned the FCC to open the retrans review.

She said she had heard from some of her state's smaller pay-TV providers about the possibility of increased signal losses due to impasses and consumer disaffection and dislocation. 

Emerson was all for new rules of the road for retrans. "With more than a thousand carriage deals set to expire by the end of this year," she said, "it is essential that the commission have new rules in place to help avoid the types of carriage disruptions for consumers that we've seen increasingly occur."

Public comments on the FCC's retrans proposals are due May 27. The FCC has proposed clarifying what constitutes good fair negotiations, which it is empowered to enforce, as well as whether it should get rid of the syndicated exclusivity and network nonduplication rules to give cable operators an out-of-market alternative to negotiate with if they reach impasses with local stations over carriage.

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