FCC Study Calls for Retrans Status Quo


In a report to Congress released Friday, the Federal Communications Commission declined to recommend changing laws that allow TV stations to bargain for cable carriage despite MSO concerns about hardball tactics employed by the major broadcast networks.

The retransmission-consent law, passed in 1992, is largely working as intended, meaning that “the local television broadcaster and the [pay TV distributor] negotiate in the context of a level playing field in which the failure to resolve local broadcast-carriage disputes through the retransmission-consent process potentially is detrimental to each side,” the FCC concluded in the 43-page report.

The agency noted that in response to cable MSOs’ “widespread concern” about the tying of TV signals to carriage of cable networks, Congress might find that retransmission consent is not functioning as intended and should be changed.

Assuming that Congress opted to limit the use of retransmission consent to obtain carriage of broadcaster-affiliated cable networks, the FCC said that the new law should ensure that a TV station’s mandatory carriage rights include not just one digital programming service, but all services -- or so-called multicast must-carry.

“If broadcasters are limited in their ability to accept in-kind compensation, they should be granted full carriage rights for their digital-broadcast signals, including all free, over-the-air digital-multicast streams," the commission said.