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FCC takes comments on retransmission fights

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday called for public comments on a petition field by cable, satellite and telecom service providers on retransmission rules between them and broadcasters.

The notice comes after a transmission fees dispute between Walt Disney and Cablevision earlier this month left 3.1 million subscribers in the New York area without their ABC station for one day.

The FCC said public comments are due by April 19. It will then open up a proceeding to take reply comments until May 4.

Some lawmakers, including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), have argued current retransmission rules have put consumers at the center of disputes between broadcasters and pay-television service providers such as Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications. Broadcasters, meanwhile, say most negotiations are amicable and that the agency shouldn't intervene in deals between private companies.

“We live in a very different world than we did in 1992 when the rules were written, and I think the commission’s decision to examine the retransmission consent regime is smart and appropriate," Kerry said. "We get what’s going on in these private carriage negotiations, we respect the market, and it’s not the job or intention of the federal government to advantage one side in a private dispute.”

Last week, more than a dozen pay-television providers filed their petition to the FCC calling for a broad overhaul of retransmission rules. They called for the FCC to step in when transmission negotiations reach an impasse. And they said rules should be in place to prevent broadcasters from pulling signals during disputes.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 19, 2010; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  FCC  
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