Univision's Uva: Retrans Fees Fund Hispanic Community Outreach

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CEOJoe Uva says that since Univision made the decision back in 2008 to seek cash for its TV station signals, the Spanish-language media company has been able to invest in promoting education, financial planning, and voting in Hispanic communities, encouraging participation in the census, and producing high-value content through Univision Studios.

That investment depended on the dual revenue stream it has built after electing to seek cash, rather than mandatory carriage for its 62 TV stations.

According to a copy of his testimony, prepared for a Nov. 17 Senate Communications Subcommittee hearing on retransmission consent, Uva says Univision has since negotiated over 150 deals without any signal disruption.
Uva will argue that it is only fair that Univision participate in the value of its programming. After all, when Univison was electing must-carry, he says, it was getting no compensation for programming that he says "helped propel the growth of those distributors."

The subcommittee, led by Sen. john Kerry (D-Mass.) is looking into what it should do, if anything, to change the current system. Kerry thinks the FCC needs to get more involved, including mandating outside arbitration when necessary and keeping signals on the air during retrans impasses.

Uva understands the concern of elected officials over the loss of a constituent's favorite station, but avers that stepping in to keep signals on the air would distort the marketplace and remove the primary incentive for distributors to reach an agreement.

He adds that even the threat of government intervention could negatively affect his business: "Investors know that mandated "interim carriage," standstills and the like only benefit cable operators. This is precisely the wrong time to do anything that will further depress investor confidence in broadcasting and local program services."

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski supports a congressional review of retrans, citing consumer disruptions and what he says is the relatively limited power of the FCC to step in under current law. Cable operators disagree. They say the FCC has broad powers to write retrans laws that protect consumers from a system that in their view unfairly benefits broadcasters and insulates those broadcasters from the economic impact of their retrans deals.