Washington Watch


Royalties Give Studios, Stations $750M

WASHINGTON — Over the next few months, Hollywood studios,
stations, sports leagues and others will be divvying up a pot
of $750 million in royalties.

TV stations’ take of that will be about
$120 million (about $75 million from cable
and another $45 million or so from satellite),
which the National Association of
will be distributing in the May-
June time period, according to a source familiar
with the payments. Those payments
cover TV stations’ news and other local

That payment comes after copyright royalty judges in March
freed up that $750 million in payments, according to the Library
of Congress — payments that cover disputes resolved
by the judges in 2004 and 2005, with the 2006-2009 funds
coming from a negotiated settlement between the parties for

It is the largest payout in the six-year history of the panel,
the Library of Congress said in announcing the royalty payout.

The judges are part of a statutory body overseeing payments
by satellite and cable operators under compulsory
licenses. Those blanket licenses allow them to retransmit
broadcast programming without negotiating individual payments
to the various content providers for each program.

“This is a significant milestone, representing the successful
conclusion of years of negotiation and effort to clear this backlog
of payments owed to content creators,” chief judge James
Sledge said in a statement.

A few disputes remain from that six-year span, with additional
royalties expected to be distributed through the end of
this year. The board is retaining $33 million —- $20 million
from cable royalties and $13 million from satellite — to cover
those cases.

Retrans Reform Workaround

WASHINGTON — With no action in almost a year from the Federal
Communications Commission
on its proposed retransmissionconsent
rulemaking, cable operators last week were looking
at the agency’s statutorily mandated media-ownership rules
review as a vehicle for some of the major
alterations they are seeking.

In comments in the FCC’s quadrennial
review of those ownership rules, members
of the American Television Alliance
(ATVA), which includes major cable and
satellite operators seeking to reform the
retransmission-consent regime, called on the FCC to consider
whether networks’ handling of negotiations for their affiliates
constitutes a de facto transfer of control; said that joint sales
and services agreements are loopholes in the ownership rules
that should be closed; and suggested the FCC should ban stations
from affiliating with multiple networks in a single market.

All those would be steps to reduce broadcasters’ leverage
in retransmission-consent negotiations.

In its filing, the American Cable Association, an ATVA member,
said that joint service agreements between stations have
reduced the amount of local news while boosting retransmission-
consent coffers for broadcasters through joint negotiations.

The FCC has proposed leaving most ownership restrictions
in place, while loosening a ban on newspaperbroadcast
cross-ownership and lifting the ban on TV-radio

Pew Search Scorecard: Google 83, Yahoo 6

WASHINGTON — Just how dominant is Google in the searchengine
space? According to a new study from the Pew Internet
and American Life
Project, 83% of respondents to a recent
survey said they used Google more than any other search engine.
Number two was Yahoo!, but with only 6%, tying with the
combined “other” category.

In 2004, when Pew last asked that question in a survey,
47% said Google to 26% for Yahoo!

Google has been under the microscope on Capitol Hill for
its dominance in search and online
advertising, and the Federal Trade
Commission is also currently investigating
the company. At a Capitol Hill
hearing last year, Google executive
chairman Eric Schmidt said his company was not dominant
in search, arguing that its competitors — such as Yahoo! and
Bing — are not just general search engines but specialized
search engines, social networks and mobile applications.

Targeted advertisers won’t be happy to hear that 68% of
Pew survey participants said they are not OK with targeted
online advertising because they did not like having their online
behavior tracked and analyzed.

Grassley Still Unhappy With FCC

WASHINGTON — Hope that a House
Energy & Commerce Committee
last week for documents on
the proposed LightSquared mobilebroadband
service might break a
logjam on FCC nominees might
have been premature.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa),
who had threatened a hold on the
nominees until the FCC produced
such info, last week sent a memo
to reporters blasting the FCC for not making a couple of staffers
available to his staff to talk about the LightSquared waiver.

The FCC granted LightSquared a waiver to deliver terrestrial
wireless broadband service using spectrum allocated to
satellite delivery, but it was always conditioned on resolving
interference issues with Global Positioning System satellites.
The commission has since decided to rescind the waiver over
the unreconciled interference problems. LightSquared has
maintained there is a solution, but the FCC and other government
agencies concluded from testing that was not the case,
at least in the short term.

FCC spokeswoman Tammy Sun responded to the complaint:
“In the LightSquared matter, the Commission is following longstanding
practice, consistent with Congress’s own guidance
with respect to requests from individual members.”