Taxpayer organization wants true open market retransmission arena


The National Taxpayers Union says that the hearing planned by the Senate Commerce Committee on retransmission consent should best ignore the travails of recent high-profile service disruptions and instead focus on crafting new rules and regs that take into account the new competitive situation.

“The problem is not that the FCC lacks authority to intervene, but that a slew of poorly-designed rules nearly two decades old prevent geographic competition and encourage episodes of brinksmanship like the Fox-Cablevision fight,” said NTU Director of Government Affairs Andrew Moylan. “The rules governing retransmission consent were designed to shield content providers from a cable monopoly that no longer exists, and now those providers are exploiting that protection to the fullest.”

Moylan says Congress and regulators need to do more than “rearrange the deck chairs. He concluded, “The ‘thumb on the scale’ model that governs retransmission consent is outdated and needs reform. However, the solution is not more government manipulation, but for Congress to embark on a comprehensive rewrite of telecommunications law that allows both television service providers and content providers to operate in a truly free and open negotiation environment.”

RBR-TVBR observation: NTU looks at retrans and sees a tangled mess, but we question if they see all of the tangles. Like the importance of local broadcast programming and the motivation MVPDs have to unfairly favor their own programming choices.

For instance, while it’s true that there are other distribution platforms competing with cable now, there is still a need to make sure subscribers to each have access to the local information generally only available from broadcasters. If there is a local emergency, a cable subscriber can’t exactly call the satellite or telco company to switch services.

And unless distributors are not also allowed to own program sources, there are all sorts of ways they can use them to manipulate the field of negotiation.

Although NTU is looking for a free open market platform, it seems to come up short on specifics, at least within the confines of this statement. But we’d say if a free open market process is what NTU wants, it need look no further – it’s already there.