FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing to prevent joint retransmission consent negotiations between two of the top four separately owned stations in a local market, and adopt a "rebuttable presumption" that coordinated negotiations by any two stations in a market are not in the public interest.
The chairman plans to vote on that retransmission consent proposal at the March 31 meeting, according to senior FCC officials speaking on background. He will circulate the item on March 10, the customary 21 days before the meeting. Those officials made it clear the move was a way to try to stem rising cable prices. The officials cited what they called skyrocketing costs of retrans, from $28 million in 2005 to $2.4 billion in 2012.
The chairman wants immediate action on retrans and JSA's (see below), but is also seeking comment on other issues, including local ownership rules and continuing to ban the merger of two of the top four broadcast networks.
If the chairman gets three votes, then coordinate retrans among top-market stations would be disallowed as soon as the rule was published in the Federal Register, so long as there were no Paperwork Reduction Act implications, which require a separate OMB review.
Also has part of the retrans item, the FCC is proposing to extend the cable prohibition on dropping TV station programming during sweeps to satellite operators--House Republicans have actually been considering dropping that prohibition for cable--and asks whether to eliminate the network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules, which prevent cable and satellite operators from importing out-of-market network and syndicated programming. That question was already teed up in the open retrans proceeding.
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