In comments on the commission’s syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules, Cablevision and Charter want the FCC to require broadcasters to offer “reasonable ” and “nondiscriminatory” retransmission consent rates to pay TV operators, “not tied to carriage of any other programming service.” But broadcasters told the FCC that the syndex/non-dupe rules are critical to their businesses. They “inherently promote localism by enhancing the value and protecting the service that local television stations provide to the heart of their communities,” said CBS.
At the same time the FCC axes its syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules, it also should bar broadcasters from inking other kinds of contracts that could prevent cable operators from importing distant-market signals, say Cablevision Systems and Charter Communications in a joint filing at the FCC.
In addition, the two cable operators want the FCC to require broadcasters to offer “reasonable ” and “nondiscriminatory” retransmission consent rates to pay TV operators, “not tied to carriage of any other programming service or other non-cash compensation,” according to their June 26 FCC filing.
“These steps, which fall squarely within the commission’s authority, would reintroduce some equality of bargaining that has long been absent and avoid much of the consumer harm currently caused by retransmission-consent negotiations,” the cable operators added.
On a related front, the cable system operators urged the FCC to bar broadcasters from pulling programming from pay TV systems during popular sports and other marquee programming coverage.
”Finally, the commission should prohibit broadcasters from blocking access to their online content to a particular MVPD’s internet subscribers when a carriage dispute arises with that MVPD,” the cable operators urged. “This tactic harms innocent consumers, who may not even be video customers of the MVPD.”
Cablevision and Charter’s recommendations come in response to a controversial FCC proposal to consider eliminating the agency’s syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules. The two regulations basically make it easier for broadcasters to protect the exclusivity of their programming in their markets.
Without the rules broadcasters would still be able to protect the exclusivity of their programming, but would have to rely on the courts, instead of the FCC, to enforce the protections, adding to the hassle and expense for the broadcaster.
But along supporting the elimination of the syndicated exclusivity and network non-dupe regs, Cablevision and Charter — and several other major pay TV companies — are using their filings to promote additional retrans reforms.
“Ideally, Congress and the commission would eliminate all rules that prevent the marketplace for distribution of broadcast station programming from functioning like a normal market, including the network non-duplication and syndicated programming exclusivity rules and others that distort negotiations,” said Verizon, in its comments.
But broadcasters told the FCC in their own comments that the syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules are critical to their business plans. “These rules inherently promote localism by enhancing the value and protecting the service that local television stations provide to the heart of their communities,” said CBS, in its filing.
“As a practical matter, elimination of the exclusivity rules would leave broadcasters (and broadcasters alone) with no effective, efficient way to enforce their privately-negotiated exclusivity agreements, and would benefit cable operators at the expense of broadcasters and satellite carriers,” added the National Association of Broadcasters, in its comments.
“Even more troubling, removal of the rules would inflict real financial harm on broadcasters (both in the loss of advertising revenues and in the negotiation of retransmission consent agreements) and thus on their ability to provide essential local programming, in contravention of Congress’ and the commission’s longstanding commitment to broadcast localism,” NAB added.