NAB fights to preserve retrans negotiation process


The National Association of Broadcasters filed comments with the FCC noting that the right of broadcasters to be compensated for carriage on an MVPD is enshrined in the Communications Act and questioned the FCC’s authority to depart from that standard without an act of Congress.

NAB was joined in its filing by affiliate associations for ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.

The broadcast coalition said, “Virtually all of the retransmission consent ‘reforms’” that have come from MVPDs “have previously been considered by the Commission and rejected.” They also suggested that the FCC lacks statutory authority to adopt such proposals, and said they should be rejected once again.

NAB has argued that the MVPD-initiated retransmission proceeding at the FCC is nothing more than an MVPD attempt to gain a government-enabled competitive edge.

The broadcaster coalition notes that strangely enough, the restrictions MVPDs wish to place on negotiations between broadcasters would not extend to non-broadcast channels – and suggests that perhaps this is because in many cases the MVPD operators and non-broadcast programmers are often one and the same. The resulting double standard once again would be the result of getting government complicity in tilting the playing field in the MVPDs’ direction.

It also argued against the establishment of an arbitration process as laden with burdensome costs to the extent that even some MVPD operators oppose it. The broadcasters “noted comments from Massillon Cable asserting that arbitration of broadcast station retransmission consent disputes would be cost ‘prohibitive.’ In previous comments, Massillon Cable noted a million dollars in expenses incurred in a single arbitration for carriage of a single cable programming network.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The scuttlebutt on this is that FCC execs see retransmission as a free market negotiation, which would indicate a favorable climate for broadcasters. The fact that retransmission negotiations occasionally lead to headlines but rarely to disruptions of service is strong evidence that the system is working.