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Full Channel, Univision retrans struggle ending

Fri, 05/20/2011 - 8:30am
Brian Santo

Small operator Full Channel and television station WUNI have come to a retransmission agreement after months of bitter negotiations during which the broadcaster pulled its signal for three months.

WUNI carries Univision programming in Rhode Island, where both companies do business.

Terms of the deal were not revealed, but presumably Full Channel was able to get a better deal than paying the 33 percent hike in fees it told the FCC that WUNI was seeking.

Meanwhile, NBC is apparently close to adopting a policy of negotiating retrans fees for those of its affiliates that opt to have it do so, according to ongoing reporting from Broadcasting & Cable. The maneuver is aimed at providing leverage for the affiliates that typically must renegotiate fees with large broadcast groups.

The American Cable Association and its small operator constituents have been complaining for years that the retrans status quo has been stacked against operators.

Their complaints began to gain traction in the past year, during which several programmers started blacking out large MSOs. A notorious example was Fox blacking out a few minutes of the Oscars telecast last year. The FCC has finally agreed to investigate.

"The American Cable Association is pleased that Full Channel cable customers in Rhode Island have access to Univision's national network programming for the first time since Feb. 18, when local TV station WUNI pulled its signal after demanding an outrageous increase in retransmission consent payments and other exorbitant forms of compensation," wrote ACA President Mathew Polka.

"Millions of consumers in markets both big and small are being injured by TV station blackouts," Polka continued, "underscoring the need for Federal Communications Commission action to prevent broadcasters from abusing their market power and regulatory advantages to extract excessive compensation for pay-TV carriage.

"While Full Channel viewers now have access to Univision network programming, WUNI's 91-day blackout continues. ACA hopes that the FCC's pending rulemaking injects badly needed competitive forces into the retrans market and puts an end to TV station blackouts once and for all. Consumers, whose tax dollars provide broadcasters with free spectrum, deserve no less."

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