The Business Council is writing to express its opposition to this legislation which would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to arbitrate negotiations between cable telecommunication companies and independent cable channels if carriage agreements cannot be mutually agreed upon.
This would undermine the current ability of cable and telecommunications companies to control costs and prevent consumer prices from unreasonable increases.
Requiring arbitration by the PSC is both unnecessary and not in accordance with federal law. Congress has established a comprehensive federal standard that addresses program carriage disputes between cable operators and programmers. Federal law very clearly appoints the FCC with the authority to regulate "carriage agreements" negotiated between cable operators and content providers.
S.6230/A.9092 also wrongly empowers local franchising authorities to decide whether or not a cable franchise can carry programming that is the subject of a carriage dispute, and that action is expressly barred by federal law. The FCC prohibits federal, state or local franchising authorities from imposing content requirements.
This bill could ultimately incentivize a party to a dispute to manufacture disagreements with the other party in the hopes that it will ultimately be decided in arbitration by a PSC that may be favorable to the demands of a particular party over the other. These disputes harm millions of cable customers and thousands of employees around the State who have to deal with delays and loss of cable coverage as well as additional costs due to arbitration and loss of revenue during these disputes.
Finally, we believe this bill is not in the spirit of free enterprise. Companies should maintain the right to make editorial decisions in the best interests of their customers concerning what programming is carried on their networks. These decisions should not be placed in the hands of a state arbitrator.
Cable and telecommunication companies value their customers and endeavor to offer the best product and value to attract and retain their business, and keep prices down. This bill would undermine these goals and create more division between cable operators and independent programmers.
For the above stated reasons, we respectfully oppose passage of S.6230 /A.9092.