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No deal on Cablevision-Fox; Sen. Kerry introduces draft bill to reform TV fees rules

Cablevision and Fox will stretch their contract dispute over retransmission fees into a fifth day, with much disagreement still to resolve as Cablevision customers in New York and New Jersey continue to be blocked from Fox channels.

Representatives of the two parties had a brief phone conversation Tuesday and planned to continue talks on Wednesday. But "no material progress was made, and we remain far apart," Fox said in a press release.

Amid the impasse, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Tuesday introduced draft legislation that seeks to reform laws governing how broadcasters and cable/satellite providers conduct negotiations over fees to retransmit television signals.

The bill would require broadcasters to keep their signals up during a negotiation impasse. The Federal Communications Commission would then evaluate if the negotiations were being made in good faith. If they were not done in good faith, the FCC could then order binding arbitration or give the cable company two days to determine whether to accept the broadcaster's offer. If the company does not accept the offer, the broadcaster can request arbitration or pull its signal.

“It’s not our job to take sides, but it is our responsibility to help find a better way forward,” Kerry said. “The goal of this legislation is to offer a path towards resolution that reforms a broken system and protects the consumers who get caught in the middle.”

Fox has urged lawmakers not to intervene in such disputes, saying they should be resolved by private parties. The FCC has called on both parties to seek a third party outsider to mediate negotiations.

In a separate letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Kerry noted that his bill comes as the agency has yet to introduce its own reforms of retransmission consent rules.

Kerry said in his letter that Genachowski testified before the Senate Commerce Committee last spring that he would review retransmission rules.

"The FCC has had sufficient time to consider the comments that have been filed on that petition and begin the process to revise its rules," Kerry said. "But in the absence of FCC action, I feel a responsibility to begin to consider the smartest, least intrusive actions to reform the law."

By Cecilia Kang  | October 19, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  FCC  
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