Senate Commerce Committee To Hold Retrans Hearing Nov. 17

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As expected, the Senate Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing Nov. 17 on the retransmission consent regime, a committee source confirmed Friday.

Multichannel News had reported Oct. 19 that Kerry was looking at holding a hearing that week.

Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) is teeing up legislation, a discussion draft of which he sent to Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski. That came in the midst of the bitter Fox/Cablevision retrans fight.

Calling it a "broken system," Kerry had said the legislation would try to fix the two-party system, in this case negotiating parties, for the sake of a third party: consumers. As he telegraphed in a statement following Fox and Cablevision's failure to come to terms Oct. 15, the bill would keep signals on the air while the FCC evaluates both parties and recommends, or doesn't recommend, binding arbitration, during which carriage would also continue.

According to various sources, among the parties the committee is expected to invite are representatives of Cablevision and News Corp., the central parties in the most recent and highest-profile retrans impasse, and Genachowski, who has told Kerry he supports a congressional review of retransmission consent. "Under the present system, the FCC has very few tools with which to protect consumers' interests in the retransmission consent process," Genachowski told Kerry in a letter Oct. 29.

Another possible witness would be a representative of Time Warner Cable, which has been one of the leading voices for retrans reform via the American Television Alliance and a petition to the FCC to change the retrans rules, including mandating outside arbitration and keeping stations on the air during retrans disputes.

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