Connecticut state senator Gayle Slossberg Thursday called on the FCC to intervene in the retransmission impasse between Tribune and Cablevision, pointing to constituents who since August have not been able to see Fox programming on Cablevision (Tribune's WTIC Hartford), including the baseball playoffs and World Series.
It is usually big-ticket spots programs that draw the attention of Washington to retransmission-consent battles.
"I write to you today on behalf of the 50,000 viewers in Connecticut, half of whom are in my senatorial district, who since August have not been able to view certain NFL games and, as of last night, the World Series, as a result of the impasse between Cablevision and Tribune Broadcasting Company," Slossberg wrote to the commission. "As Federal Communications Commission Commissioner [Michael] Copps accurately noted, the FCC [is] intended first and foremost to be a consumer protection agency . . . It has utterly failed in that mission."
Copps has not been on the commission since December of last year, but was replaced by his former aide, Jessica Rosenworcel.
Taking a page from the American Television Alliance, Slossberg suggested the FCC step in to arbitrate the dispute, then added her own twist -- that consumers should be able to complain directly to the FCC and request an investigation. But Slossberg is ready for a more activist FCC on the issue.
"It is unconscionable to punish consumers for the failure of these media companies to come to an agreement," she wrote. "You are the agency charged with protecting consumers. You cannot sit by any longer while average Americans are denied the basic, simple pleasure of coming home to watch the game."
FCC Chairman Genachowski has made a point of positioning the FCC as a consumer agency. The FCC has an open proceeding -- dating back over a year -- in which it suggested clarifying good faith negotiations, but not arbitration or standstills. The chairman has taken no action on that docket and has signaled the FCC's role is ensuring negotiations are in good faith, rather than engineering a particular outcome.