Rep. Steve King (R-IA) recently wrote a letter to the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to let him know that “…I have heard from a number of my state’s smaller pay-TV providers the video marketplace has fundamentally changed.” In May, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson wrote a letter to the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to let him know that “…I’ve heard from a number of my state’s smaller pay-TV providers the video marketplace has fundamentally changed.” Hmmmm, a very interesting congruence of style is on display here.
Another letter was written by Peter Visclosky (D-IN) in April; we will give Visclosky creativity points for not using the “fundamentally changed” phrase.
The upshot of the letters is that small cable operators seek relief from the allegedly abusive tactics of broadcasters during retransmission negotiations.
Emerson said, “I’ve been told negotiations breakdown more frequently, consumers lose broadcast signals more often, and retransmission consent fees rise more quickly, resulting in significant inconvenience to consumers and higher pay-TV bills.” King “wrote” the exact same sentence in his letter.
The comment period on the FCC’s proceeding on retransmission consent closed down 6/27/11.
The trio of representatives made other arguments in favor of cable systems, but did not point out, as broadcasters might, that negotiations rarely result in a disruption of service. Further, it takes two to reach in impasse, and hardball-playing MVPD negotiators are just as capable of forcing that rare result as are broadcasters.
The current open-market negotiation process was put in place by Congress and has been affirmed by Congress and the FCC many times. MVPDs have been pushing to eliminate a broadcaster’s right to pull a signal when negotiations stall and to bring in arbitration. Broadcasters point out that these steps would only further encourage MVPDs to force an impasse.
In a reply to Visclosky, Genachowski wrote, “Our goal in the proceeding is to take a fresh look and update and clarify our rules within the scope of the current statutory framework. We requested specific information regarding the concerns raised by small MVPDs, such as those in your District, and will carefully evaluate the record before us.”
RBR-TVBR observation: We have seen letters to Chairman Genachowski on all kinds on ongoing FCC proceedings, and the answer is always the same. It’s very polite, and thanks the legislator for their interest, and says absolutely nothing.