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FCC looking into disputes over TV transmission fees

The Federal Communications Commission has begun a review of rules governing how broadcasters and pay television services negotiate transmission fees.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during a Senate hearing on Comcast and NBC Universal’s proposed merger that recent spats during such negotiations show that the framework for such negotiations may be outdated.

His comments were made in response to questions by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who has pushed for the agency to intervene when negotiations fail, as they did last weekend between Walt Disney and Cablevision. The breakdown resulted in ABC pulling its signal from Cablevision’s 3 million subscribers in the New York area.

Similar eleventh-hour negotiations – as between Time Warner Cable and News Corp. on New Year’s – have hurt consumers, Genachowski said.

“The events over the last two to three months confirms that this is a subject that should be looked at seriously ... for a framework that works for consumers,” he said.

Major cable, satellite and telecommunications providers of subscription-based television sent a petition to the FCC earlier this week, calling for the agency to intervene as a third-party negotiator in such standoffs. They also called for the agency to stop broadcasters from pulling their signals even when at an impasse.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 11, 2010; 11:09 AM ET
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