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Retransmission Reform Reply Comments Due Today

WASHINGTON: Today is the deadline for filing reply comments on proposed rules governing retransmission consent. The Federal Communications Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in March to consider updating regulations involving cable and satellite carriage of broadcast TV signals.

Cable operators in particular have lobbied hard to get the FCC to step into retransmission consent negotiations, while broadcasters want the commission to leave the current rules alone. Pay TV carriers particularly want the FCC to prohibit broadcasters from pulling TV signals when talks break down.

The commission’s NPRM considers a work-around of sorts. It asks about eliminating network non-duplication and syndication exclusivity rules. This would allow cable operators to carry an out-of-market TV station should an in-market affiliate pull its signal in a retransmission stalemate. Stations currently can assert non-duplication rights by sending notifications to cable operators within 60 days of a network affiliate agreement.

The NRPM also is seeking feedback on what constitutes “good faith,” which is now required in retrans negotiations and is subject to interpretation. The commission was reluctant to take up retrans reform on the grounds that it doesn’t have the authority to require broadcasters to provide their signals to pay TV providers.It did so in March after repeated pleas from cable operators.

~ Deborah D. McAdams