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FCC Approves Carriage Complaint Rules Update

(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—The FCC is moving forward with an update to its rules dealing with program carriage disputes, as well as the complaint process for program access, open video system (OVS) and good-faith retransmission consent, after a vote during its November Open Commission meeting.

The approved Report and Order amends the statute of limitations for filing program carriage complaints between video programming vendors and MVPDs, clarifying that the one-year filing window begins when an MVPD rejects or fails to acknowledge a request for program carriage or request to to negotiate for program carriage. Previously, the one-year window began when the programming vendor gave an MVPD notice of its intent to file a complaint, which meant a complaint could be filed years after an alleged violation, per the FCC. The Report and Order also applies to the statute of limitations for program access, OVS and good-faith retransmission consent complaints.

In addition, the order “harmonizes” the procedures governing the effective date and review of initial decisions by an administrative law judge in program carriage, program access and OVS proceedings to match those generally applicable to other ALJ decisions, per the commission. As a result, these type of ALJ decisions will not take effect for at least 50 days following release and will be stayed automatically if a decision is appealed to the FCC.

“These changes will help to ensure a clear and expeditious complaint process for potential complainants and defendants,” the FCC said in its official release.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and all commissioners approved the Report and Order.

“Clarifying the third prong of the statute of limitations will in no way interfere with the ability of programmers to file carriage complaints in circumstances where warranted,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. “The process remains intact for any potential claims but will provide a more meaningful and definite statute of limitations, and in turn, greater regulatory certainty for affected parties and consumers, avoiding the absurd result of a statute of limitations starting years after an alleged violation.”

O’Rielly, who’s nomination for another term as an FCC commissioner was pulled and will be leaving the commission at the latest when the Biden administration begins, also praised the FCC’s modernization efforts in recent years.

“In my time at the commission, I have carried the torch for wise and effective deregulation of the media industry, and many of these reforms have achieved bipartisan support. While I am glad for the success we’ve already achieved, I am mindful that we have merely scratched the surface of the necessary work. The truth of the matter is much of the regulatory—and in many cases statutory—burdens should be completely scrapped. I look forward to seeing who will take up the cause and carry on the effort in years to come.”