Cable Coalition Files FCC Petition Regarding Retransmissions10 Mar, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel
A group of 14 cable, satellite and telecommunications companies March 9 filed a petition with the Federal Communication Commission seeking to improve ways to resolve disputes with content holders and media companies over retransmissions fees and related issues.
With advertising revenue under siege due to the recession, media companies have upped the rhetoric for license rights and fees across all distribution channels, including cable and the Internet.
The coalition, which includes Cablevision, Charter Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network, Insight Communications, Mediacom Communications, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, among others, said the FCC’s current format for governing retransmissions consent is outdated and fails to protect the public interest.
Specifically, the coalition cited Cablevision’s dispute over a $40 million surcharge leveled by The Walt Disney Co. for local affiliate WABC TV that resulted in Disney cutting access the station the day before the Academy Awards broadcast.
“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,” Time Warner Cable said in a statement.
The coalition asked the FCC to implement new dispute resolution procedures, including compulsory arbitration or an expert tribunal, and mandate continued carriage of broadcast signals during negotiations or disputes, to help ensure uninterrupted programming for consumers.
Disney and Cablevision eventually came to a resolution minutes before the Oscars began, but not before the Bethpage, N.Y.-based operator resorted to offering its broadband subscribers free video-on-demand (VOD) access to most Oscar-nominated movies, and hiring a former New York Post editor to blog live coverage (via Twitter and Facebook) of the awards telecast, among other actions.