FCC Proposes to Bring Retrans Notification Process into the 21st Century

WASHINGTON—The FCC today voted to update the way broadcasters notify multichannel video program distributors every three years about whether the pay-TV operators want to elect mandatory carriage or negotiate for retransmission consent.

Currently broadcasters are required to notify MVPDs of their election via certified mail, but new FCC rules would permit broadcasters to post their carriage elections online and notify the MVPDs by email only if they decide to change the election. The new rules, which were jointly proposed by the National Association of Broadcasters and the NCTA-the Internet and Television Association, also require all parties to post their contact information on the FCC’s public databases.

For public broadcasters carried over satellite, they could also dispense with certified mail and instead upload a request for carriage to their public files online; new requests for carriage by public broadcasters would be emailed to the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) operators.

The FCC also passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on extending these rules to LPTVs and non-commercial translator stations that are not required to have a public database file, despite being subject to the commission’s carriage rules.

“NAB applauds the FCC for updating the notification process for carriage of local TV stations’ signals on pay-TV systems,” an NAB spokesperson said. “Allowing for a more limited set of carriage notices to be sent electronically rather than by outdated and expensive certified mail represents a smart approach to streamlining bureaucracy that has outlived its usefulness. We appreciate NCTA’s willingness to work with NAB to alleviate this regulatory relic and thank the FCC for its flexible approach to carriage elections.”

PBS and America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), likewise hailed the move.

“By simplifying and modernizing the satellite carriage election process for local public television stations to reflect the unique nature of public television, the FCC is helping ensure that public television stations are readily available to all Americans on whatever platform they choose,” they said.

More information is available in the NPRM (17-105 and 17-317).

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.