FCC Planning to Enter Retrans Consent Debate

The Federal Communications Commission is planning to open up a proceeding on retransmission consent negotiation rules, governing how broadcasters and cable companies determine value for signal clearances. Bill Lake, the FCC’s media bureau chief, will deliver the news Wednesday (Dec. 8) during a lunch at the Media Institute, the FCC confirmed.

There is no timetable for when the FCC could put the notice of proposed rule making on its agenda. It has previously avoided taking on the retransmission consent rules established by Congress in the 1992 Cable Act.

But pressure has been mounting on the regulating body to get involved. Earlier this year, cable companies and other reform advocates requested that the FCC open a proceeding.

In the fall, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, held a hearing not long after the 16-day standoff between Cablevision and Fox, which left 3 million Cablevision subscribers scrambling to watch parts of the World Series and other Fox programming.

As a result of the standoff, Kerry wrote draft legislation that would keep signals from being pulled during a dispute and compel companies to use arbitration in extreme situations. The legislation, which has not been introduced in the lame-duck Congress, calls for the FCC to mediate complaints.