New York City sticking its nose into retransmission debate


The New York City Council is considering sending a resolution to the FCC urging them to step in and prevent service disruptions during retransmission negotiations between broadcasters and MVPDs. Top execs at NYC TV stations weighed in to protest the one-sided approach the council seems to be taking in favor of MVPDs.

There are two resolutions before the Council, both of which purport to have the innocent caught-in-between consumer, and both of which seem to adopt an MVPD-oriented view of the situation.

Language from Daniel R. Garodnik concludes, “Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls upon the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Congress to establish a new framework that includes a dispute resolution process for resolving retransmission consent disputes between broadcasters and cable companies, and to provide for interim carriage while negotiations or dispute resolutions are underway.”

Language from Lewis A. Fidler is much starker: “Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls upon the United States Congress to repeal the retransmission consent option of the Cable Act of 1992 for television broadcast stations.”

Managers at top local broadcast television stations made their case in a letter to the Council. They pointed out that the disruptions in service that is spurring the Resolutions are rare events, and that and went on to make a case for retransmission fees – which help make possible the programming broadcasters provide, and which is by far the most popular programming that MVPDs offer.

The broadcasters wrote, “The fees paid by cable companies to broadcasters under the retransmission consent system are not charity. Local broadcasters remain by far the most watched channels on the dial and a source of enormous economic value to cable companies. Cable companies already charge their subscribers a monthly fee for access to their local broadcast stations. Here in New York City, that monthly fee is typically around $18 per month. Yet historically, cable companies have simply pocketed that fee as pure profit, paying nothing to local broadcasters. Recently the emergence of competition to the cable monopoly has led to more even negotiations, including fairer division of revenues between the broadcasters which are investing in the content that viewers value and the cable company that is providing the infrastructure to bring that content to people’s homes.”

The letter was signed by Dave Davis, President/GM, ABC WABC; Michael Jack, President/GM; Lew Leone, VP/GM Fox WNYW/MNT WWOR; Peter Dunn, President/GM CBS WCBS; and Ramon J. Pineda, SVP/Regional Director, Univision WXTV/Telefutura WFUT/WFTY.

A copy of the letter is located in the attachment box to the right.