Chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has weighed in on disputes over broadcast sports programming before, and the retransmission stalemate between Fox and Cablevision is threatening to turn him into the author of legislation to govern the process.
Kerry admitted that most disputes are resolved, but he also says that consumers pay their money, and should get what they pay for. They should not be held hostage in a “high stakes game of chicken” between two large corporations.
“I will be introducing legislation that would stave off the termination of carriage of signals upon the expiration of an agreement and allow signals to continue transmitting until the FCC evaluates the last best offer of the firms, determines whether they were made consistent with good faith negotiation and market conditions, and if they were, then recommends or does not recommend binding arbitration during which carriage would continue. If one party or the other rejects the recommendation, as they have in this instance, then a neutral notice would be issued to consumers that the signal will be coming down and both parties would have to publicly disclose the parameters of their last best offer to each other in order for consumers to determine for themselves which party they side with. This is the best way to empower consumers, increase transparency, and preserve the free market.”
RBR-TVBR observation: It really was only a matter of time before Congress threatened to get involved. Even though most retransmission disagreements are readily resolved, the ones that aren’t tend to make big splashes. And since Cablevision seems to love loud, ugly battles, New York is in play for the most contentious. Is News Corporation also a factor? It has two battles – this one and its battle with DISH involving regional sports channels, among others – going simultaneously.