Clock starts ticking on FCC retransmission NPRM


The FCCs look at what it can do regarding the retransmission consent process has been published in the Federal Register. That means that its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which it calls the “Matter of Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Related to Retransmission Consent,” is ripe for comment, and then for reply comments.

The proceeding is filed under MB Docket No. 10-71. The deadline for comments is 5/27/11, with reply comments due 6/27/11.

At the moment, the FCC’s powers in this matter are pretty much limited to ensuring that parties involved in a negotiation bargain in good faith. Which many would say amounts to almost no powers at all.

Broadcasters favor leaving the system as is – a free market negotiation. MVPDs have been seeking government assistance in tilting the balance of power their way.

While the FCC has made comments to the effect that it doesn’t see a big role for itself in the negotiations, it is looking into the possibility of allowing MVPDs to import distant signals when a negotiation breakdown causes loss of a broadcast station from its channel lineup.

RBR-TVBR observation: Allowing a distant signal into a market is bad for broadcasters in that it robs them of leverage. More importantly, it is bad for consumers, because it brings in channels that will be useless in terms of providing local news and public affairs programming. Make sure the FCC is made aware that eliminating exclusivity is not a good move for anybody but MVPDs.

An example of just how disconcerting this can be occurred during the recent dispute between Smith Broadcasting and Time Warner Cable. The mayor’s office in Utica NY was dealing with citizens concerned about local flooding – but the flooding story was coming from a station being temporarily imported from the Wilkes-Barre PA DMA.

The mayor of Utica was angry enough to use the franchising process to kick TWC out of town. That alone should be evidence enough to avoid making distant signal importation a matter of FCC policy.