Congress to Hold Retrans Hearings

There’s still plenty of fallout and finger pointing following the 16-day retransmission standoff between Fox and Cablevision that left 3 million Cablevision subscribers without Fox programming, including some of the World Series.

As promised, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation officially confirmed today it would hold hearings on retransmission consent next week, on Nov. 17.

“Media interests have every right to play hardball and negotiate hard-nosed agreements. That’s the marketplace. But I believe it’s incumbent upon those of us in public policy to see if there’s a way to help protect consumers in the crossfire as collateral damage,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. “What I know is that this system is broken.”

Kerry has also suggested draft legislation to protect consumers, forwarding it to Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski.

No witnesses have yet been named for the hearing, which could add up to more show than action in the lame-duck Congress. What is more likely, but also a long shot, is that the Federal Communications Commission could take a closer look at retransmission consent. It has yet to act on a petition filed earlier this year by the American Television Alliance, a coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies and independent programmers.