Telcos, satellite, cable band together to ask FCC to end fee disputes

Wed, 03/10/2010 - 7:25am
Mike Robuck

While cable, telco and satellite video service providers are fighting tooth and nail for subscribers on one playing field, they’ve banded together to form a coalition that has asked the Federal Communications Commission to come up with new rules for retransmission agreements between the video operators and broadcasters.

Retransmission dustups, such as the recent one between ABC and Cablevision, have become commonplace over the last few years, and the coalition contends that the consumers are the ones who are literally left in the dark when broadcasters pull their feeds to service providers during negotiations.

Time Warner Cable is leading the coalition, and yesterday it sent a petition for rulemaking to the FCC. Other members include: American Cable Association, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network, Insight Communications, Mediacom Communications, New America Foundation, Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, Public Knowledge, Suddenlink Communications and Verizon.

The coalition includes companies with more than 67 million video subscribers. The filing said that the FCC’s regulations for governing retransmission consent, created nearly 20 years ago, were outdated and are harming consumers and driving up prices.

“Consumers are increasingly being put in the middle of disputes between programmers and distributors, including recurring threats of going dark, high-stakes public negotiations and, in the case of ABC’s recent withdrawal of programming from 3 million Cablevision subscribers, highly disruptive blackouts,” a release from Time Warner Cable said.

In the filing, the 14 petitioners asked the FCC to implement new dispute resolution mechanisms – such as compulsory arbitration or an expert tribunal – and require continued carriage of broadcast signals during negotiations or disputes to help ensure uninterrupted programming for consumers.

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