Cable And Satellite Providers Ask Lawmakers For Help
Hoping to forestall another set-to between the broadcast networks and cable providers over retransmission-consent fees like the one that threatened the Oscar telecast in the New York area last Sunday, a group of cable, satellite and phone providers has asked the FCC to revamp its rules on retransmission. The group includes DirecTV, DISH Network, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. Current rules, which went on the books in 1992, are aimed at ensuring that cable providers carry over-the-air stations in every market. In its petition to the FCC, the providers said that the rules weigh heavily in favor of the broadcasters. The providers have proposed that disputes with broadcasters be submitted to neutral arbitration and that the broadcasters be prevented from shutting down their signals as a leverage tactic. In a statement on Tuesday, Time Warner Cable said, "Consumers are increasingly being put in the middle of disputes between programmers and distributors, including recurring threats of going dark, high-stakes public negotiations, and, in the case of ABC's recent withdrawal of programming from three million Cablevision subscribers, highly disruptive blackouts." Comcast, which is seeking approval to buy a controlling interest in NBC, was not among the petitioners, but did issue a statement saying, "As a company that will be in both the cable and broadcasting businesses, looking at the issue from both sides, we hope we can play a constructive role in working toward a resolution of these issues." Meanwhile, CBS chief Les Moonves told a media conference in Palm Beach, FL Tuesday that he intends to get tough on affiliates who don't share their retransmission payments with the network. When a station in Jacksonville, FL refused to do so, he said, "we ended the affiliate agreement, and they went from the No. 1 to the No. 5 station."