Next FCC meeting delves into retransmission consent


The contentious and often highly-publicized battle over retransmission consent pits broadcasters and MVPDs against one another. Consumers get stuck in the middle, and that brings politicians and regulators into the fray. It figures to be one of the hottest communications items in Washington this year, and it will surface at the FCC’s 3/3/11 Open Meeting.

This will be a preliminary event on the topic – it is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on the topic. Many MVPDs have been crying out for government intervention in what is currently an open-market business negotiation – the way broadcasters generally wish to keep it.

Currently, the FCC has little it can do other than try to assure that parties are negotiating in good faith.
Another broadcast item involves finding ways to allocate more radio stations in Native American lands.
The full tentative FCC agenda, about three weeks out, is as follows:

* Native Nations Spectrum NPRM:  A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to explore a range of recommendations to help close the wireless gap on Tribal Lands.

* Tribal and Rural Radio Orders and FNPRM:  Orders revising rules or establishing waiver standards that will make it easier for Native Nations to provide radio service to areas that are the functional equivalent of Tribal Lands and to Tribal Lands that are small or irregularly shaped.  A further notice invites additional comment on adopting a Tribal Bidding Credit and alternative ways to foster radio service by Native Nations on their lands.  Also, an order adjusting policies for determining whether proposed new radio stations or station moves constitute an equitable distribution of radio service under Section 307(b) of the Communications Act.

* Omnibus NOI on Improving Communications Services for Native Nations:  A Notice of Inquiry that explores ways to overcome the barriers to deployment of communications services to Native Nations communities, and to improve consultation and coordination with Native Nations.

* NPRM to Streamline and Clarify the Commission’s Rules Governing Retransmission Consent:  A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on changes to rules governing or affecting retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors.

* Lifeline/Link Up Reform and Modernization NPRM:  A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to reform the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline and Link Up programs to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse; improve program administration, accountability, and fiscal responsibility; and modernize the program in light of market and technology changes, including to support pilot programs for broadband adoption.

* Advanced Communications Services NPRM:  A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on rules implementing provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).  The NPRM proposes rules requiring providers of advanced communications services and manufacturers of equipment used for those services to make their products accessible to people with disabilities.

* Video Description NPRM:  Also implementing the CVAA, this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes to reinstate the video description rules adopted by the Commission in 2000, as directed by Congress.

RBR-TVBR observation: As far as retrans goes, this is basically a call to get your best essay writers and attorneys to work making the case that the system is not broken and works far better than any government-imposed system possibly could. It’s a beginning, not an ending. The most interesting takeaway from the 3/3/11 meeting will be whatever clues the commissioners offer as to their current thinking on this issue.