Genachowski remarks on quiet retrans blackout season


ACA / American Cable AssociationThe American Cable Association is meeting in Washington, and one of the notable local figures to drop in on the group’s 19th Washington Summit was FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. He noted that the FCC has very limited authority when it comes to inserting itself into broadcast retransmission consent negotiations, and noted that there hasn’t been much cause to lately in any case.

According to ACA, Genachowski said that it is not within the FCC’s authority to “revise the way the system works.” However, it has used its March 2011 NPRM to gather useful data on the issue which is being used both at the FCC and on Capitol Hill.

He was pleased that the retransmission negotiation scene was relatively quiet and strife-free as 2011 segued into 2012 and many contracts came up for renewal. “We were pleased that the number of blackouts and very serious instances of consumer disruption was minimized,” he said. “I know that took some real work on the part of both cable operators and broadcasters to get there.”

He said he preferred to let the market do its work, but was willing to discuss ACA concerns about broadcasters using various techniques to increase their leverage over its members. “We’re open to that and that’s something I think ACA and the Commission should continue to talk about,” Chairman Genachowski said.

RBR-TVBR observation: We appreciate that small cable companies face economic difficulties just like most other media these days. So do local broadcasters. We believe that local broadcast is critical to local cable success, something that can’t be said of all the basic cable channels they carry (some forced by media conglomerate channel bundling).

We think pricing will work itself out, as long as the relative value of all programming components is weighed together. But this is not something that can be dictated by somebody in Washington – it’s a matter for the local market to sort out.