FCC issues consumer advisory over Fox/Cablevision dispute


Consumers stuck in the middle of the retransmission fee dispute between News Corporation programming properties and MVPD Cablevision are no doubt frustrated. The FCC responded by issuing a consumer advisory that explains what’s going on and suggests options that may be at a Cablevision subscribers’ disposal.

First among them is one that Cablevision might not be too fond of – it is the option of going to a competing MVPD. The FCC notes that AT&T, DIRECTV, DISH Network, RCN (limited areas of Brooklyn), and Verizon FIOS are possibilities, although not all are available throughout the Cablevision service area.

The FCC also suggests picking the three affected Fox television O&Os — WNYW & WWOR in the New York City area and WTXF in the Philadelphia area, directly off air, using a digital receiver or an analog receiver run through a converter box, each with an appropriate antenna.

RBR-TVBR observation: Despite frequent requests from elected politicians, the FCC has taken pains to point out that it has very little power to do anything. It also made a statement that echoes what the NAB has been saying all along. It’s statement – “In almost all cases, agreement is reached and the station is carried without interruption.” – is practically NAB boilerplate.

Legislators make the law – maybe they should learn the law as well. By law, this is a free negotiation – according to the FCC, other than requiring that negotiations be conducted “in good faith” – and try proving bad faith in court some time – Congress has given the FCC no teeth in the matter.

The danger here, of course, is that Congress WILL do some lawmaking. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is already on record saying he will get the ball rolling.

Companies that want to play hardball within the business – and Cablevision is a frequent player – just ask Disney/ABC and Scripps/Food Net/HGTV – may soon find themselves playing hardball on Capitol Hill.

Cablevision/Scripps (Food Network, HGTV)