August 12, 2013
New Regulations Needed for Cable-Broadcast Negotiations
Recent disputes between cable television providers and over-the-air and cable networks, have resulted in programming blackouts in New York City and elsewhere and prompted calls for government action. The Business Council of New York State issued the following statement regarding the need to update federal regulations to reflect current television industry practices.
Albany, N.Y. - “In the 20 years since the current federal laws and rules governing how cable companies carry and pay for, free, over the air network broadcasts were adopted - retransmission consent and must-carry - the television industry has undergone a major transformation. These rules did not anticipate the distribution of programming via satellite, the Internet or mobile devices. They also did not anticipate situations in which over-the-air broadcasters would also distribute programming via cable, satellite, and the Internet. The lack of regulations, that reflect current marketplace conditions, has dramatically tilted the playing field toward broadcasters in these discussions, and that has created a situation that is at odds with the FCC's responsibility to regulate telecommunications in the public interest.
This regulatory issue has real world impacts on business and residential cable customers. In an ongoing dispute, customers are being blocked by CBS from accessing otherwise free on-line content, as well as network programming. While we are not recommending any specific outcome in the negotiations between Time Warner Cable and CBS, we do support policy changes that protect consumers from these types of adverse impact.
Congress created retransmission consent and must-carry to preserve the public's access to free over-the-air television. Yet, broadcasters now frequently bundle over-the-air and cable channels in their retransmission consent negotiations with cable companies making blackouts more likely and more frequent. This forced bundling undermines the FCC's core public interest goal of promoting competition, localism, and diversity.
The FCC and the federal government must fix retransmission consent to ensure that cable companies and broadcasters negotiate on a level playing field that protects consumers' interests. The FCC needs to pass rules that allow for interim carriage of network broadcasts when there is an impasse in negotiations. The FCC and Congress should facilitate genuine, market-based negotiations by eliminating broadcasters' special protections that are distorting the market.” - Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO, The Business Council of New York State, Inc.