Since the switch was pulled on the television transition to digital back in the summer of 2009, the FCC has put broadband on the stove’s big burner, and has been content to let broadcast issues simmer in the back, or even remain in the fridge. But finally, on Thursday 3/3/11, broadcast issues return to the agenda. Not that it’s necessarily a good thing.
Other issues involve making it easier for Native Americans to acquire broadcast stations, and an NPRM to reinstate rules that would require television stations to provide description of action in video programming for the benefit of the visually impaired.
The retransmission plank is also a preliminary event – a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. MVPDs have been begging for government intervention into the retransmission negotiation process, while broadcasters have been defending the current free market system.
Currently, the FCC’s role in such negotiations is to assure that the negotiations are being undertaken in good faith – whatever that means. Parties from both sides would argue that the party on the other side of the table often is not bargaining in good faith and vice versa, and the ability to peer into the minds of either is beyond the talents of any agency that we are aware of.
Typically, when service disruptions occur, the FCC issues a statement saying it is monitoring the situation, and perhaps requesting a good faith negotiation, and often, they will release a consumer information advisory that broadcast service is available directly over the air without the need for an MVPD go-between.
Here is the full lineup for the 3/3/11 Open Meeting:
* 1. MEDA: TITLE: Policies to Promote Rural Radio Service and to Streamline Allotment and Assignment Procedures (MB Docket No. 09-52; RM-11528). SUMMARY: The Commission will consider an Order to revise rules or establish 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; and to adjust 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. A Further Notice seeks comment on adopting a Tribal eligibility requirement or a tribal bidding credit to foster radio service by Native Nations on their lands.
* 2. WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS: TITLE: Improving Communications Services for Native Nations by Promoting Greater Utilization of Spectrum Over Tribal Lands. SUMMARY: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to explore a range of recommendations to help close the wireless gap on Tribal Lands.
* 3. CONSUMER & GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS: TITLE: Improving Communications Services for Native Nations. SUMMARY: The Commission will consider 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.
* 4. MEDIA: TITLE: Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Related to Retransmission Consent (MB Docket No. 10-71). SUMMARY: The Commission will consider 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.
* 5. WIRELINE COMPETITION: TITLE: Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service (CC Docket No. 96-45); Lifeline and Link Up (WC Docket No. 03-109); Lifeline and Link Up Reform and Modernization. SUMMARY: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reform and modernize the universal service Lifeline and Link Up programs by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse; improving program administration, accountability, and fiscal responsibility; and updating the program in light of market and technology changes, including to support pilot programs for broadband adoption.
* 6. WIRELESS TELECOMMUNICATIONS & CONSUMER & GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS: TITLE: Implementation of Sections 716 and 717 of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CG Docket No. 10-213); Amendments to the Commission’s rules implementing Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (WT Docket No. 96-198) and Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-Blind, or Have Low Vision (CG Docket No. 10-145). SUMMARY: The Commission will consider 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.
* 7. MEDIA: TITLE: Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. SUMMARY: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reinstate the video description rules adopted by the Commission in 2000, as directed in the CVAA.
RBR-TVBR observation: We’re not sure what the FCC can do on the retransmission front, much less what they’d like to do. The bottom line is that broadcasters say the system is not broken and does not need to be changed. The fact that it’s on the agenda means that changes are being contemplated – not good. But we believe broadcasters have the winning public interest arguments on their side, and must not be shy about making them.