FCC recommends against statutory changes

September 16, 2005

The Federal Communications Commission last week recommended that Congress not change statutes related to retransmission consent, network non-duplication, syndicated exclusivity and sports blackout rules.

The report, required by Congress nine months after passage of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004, examines each issue drawing on the points of view raised by those responding to a request for comments issued in January.

While the commission recommended against changes, it did request that Congress re-examine the must-carry issue if it views “carriage of several of a broadcaster’s non-broadcast programming networks as an unintended consequence of retransmission consent and seeks to address this practice,” the report said.

The report pointed out that must-carry and retransmission consent “are part of a carefully balanced combination of laws and regulations” with the two complementing one another.

According to the report, the commission’s decision to deny broadcasters dual and multicast must-carry protection has prompted broadcasters to negotiate for carriage of their digital signals during retransmission consent negotiations as compensation for granting cable systems the right to carry their primary channel.

“If broadcasters are limited in their ability to accept in-kind compensation,” the report said, “they should be granted full carriage rights for their digital broadcast signals, including all free over-the-air digital multicast streams.”

“Should Congress consider proposals circumscribing retransmission consent compensation, we encourage review of such related rules and policies, as well, in order to maintain a proper balance,” the report said.

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