Senate panel looking at retransmission consent


Jay RockefellerSen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) doesn’t want consumers caught in the cross-fire between hardball-playing video programmers and distributors, and is going to use his chairmanship of the Senate Commerce Committee to delve into the matter. NAB’s Gordon Smith will be at the witness table.

Rockefeller said it is a follow-up to the Committee’s April “Future of Video” hearing. He’s calling it “The Cable Act at 20,” and has it on the schedule for Tuesday 7/24/12 at 2:30PM.

“Two decades ago, we passed the Cable Act to empower consumers and provide them with expanded choices at lower rates,” said Rockefeller. “Our hearing in April demonstrated just how much has changed in the past twenty years. But our goals for protecting consumers have not. We can’t look to the future of video without evaluating the Cable Act’s impact on the modern television marketplace and whether the legislation has achieved Congress’ goals. In particular, I want to take a close look at how we make sure that consumers do not continue to get caught in the crossfire in programming disputes, facing dark screens and losing access to news, sports, and other entertainment programming.”

Witness List
* Melinda Witmer, Executive Vice President & Chief Video and Content Officer, Time Warner Cable
* Colleen Abdoulah, CEO and Chairwoman of the Board, WOW! Internet, Cable, and Phone
* Martin Franks, Executive Vice President for Planning, Policy and Government Affairs, CBS Corporation
* Gordon Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Broadcasters
* Mark Cooper, Director of Research, Consumer Federation of America
* Preston Padden, Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law

RBR-TVBR observation: Broadcasters should be very happy with this witness list, with the head of the NAB, a top exec from CBS. Also, there is a cable exec and an internet programmer and a consumer advocate.

Interesting who is not invited: Not a single provider of basic cable programming, even though they account for over 90% of the money paid by MVPDs for retransmission rights. For the record, the satellite industry is not represented either, although in many ways their concerns mirror those of their cable competitors.

The wild card is Preston Padden, who we associate with ABC, which is involved in cable and broadcast. To make it even wilder, Padden is presented here as an academic.

An office from Viacom, currently in a huge battle over retrans with DirecTV, would be of interest, wouldn’t it?

At any rate, we hope Mr. Smith is loaded with information supporting the fact that for less than 10% of the cash, broadcasters provide over 90% of the top rated programs and an even higher percentage of the total local programming provided on a typical MVPD.