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Senate to scrutinize television fee battles

By Cecilia Kang


Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
credit: Foreign Policy

With millions of televisions viewers caught in the middle of several TV fee disputes this year, the Senate subcommittee on communications announced a hearing this month on the negotiations between broadcasters and cable service providers on retransmission fees.

The subcommittee, led by Sen. John. Kerry (D-Mass.), is expected to address concerns by consumers and some cable and satellite service providers that outdated laws on fee negotiations have led to eleventh-hour, strong-arm tactics that have prompted signal blackouts of popular television channels. Kerry has issued a draft bill that would allow for the Federal Communications Commission to take a more active role as a mediator of such disputes.

The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17 at 2:30 p.m. The subcommittee has not published a witness list, but a committee aide said, lawmakers will "examine how retransmission consent affects consumers and their ability to view local news, entertainment, and sports programming."

Last month, Cablevision viewers were blocked from accessing Fox station for more than two weeks. For one day, Fox parent company News Corp. blocked Cablevision Internet customers from accessing Fox shows from Fox.com and Hulu.com as part of its heated negotiations.

In the dispute, Cablevision actively pushed for the FCC to intervene in negotiations. The cable service provider to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut audiences called for the talks to go into arbitration -- a move Fox rejected, saying it would favor Cablevision.

Other stories of interest:
Battling over the future of TV

Networks block Web shows from Google TV

Fox wins in Cablevision negotiations, but federal officials take notice

By Cecilia Kang  | November 10, 2010; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  FCC, Online Video  
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Next: FCC investigates Google for Street View privacy breach

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