FCC Acting Chairwoman Threatens to Step Into CBS, Time Warner Cable Standoff

Clyburn says she is 'really distressed'

Federal Communications Commission acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn threatened Friday to take action if CBS and Time Warner Cable are unable to resolve their differences over the retransmission fees for carrying CBS.

For eight days, CBS stations have been dark on Time Warner Cable systems in some of the nation's largest markets, such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, affecting 3.5 million TWC subscribers.

"I am really distressed that consumers and viewers are being adversely affected," Clyburn said during a press conference. "I'm ready to consider appropriate action if this dispute continues."

Clyburn's bold promise came after she had successfully championed reform for prison telephone rates, an emotional issue that choked up Clyburn and other FCC staffers.

"I am deeply disappointed that the parties seem to be unable to reach a retransmission agreement," Clyburn said. "We will continue to urge both parties to stay and resolve in good faith this issue as soon as possible."

But other than issue threats, there is little Clyburn or the FCC can do other than monitor the situation and put out official statements like today's, urging the parties to cut it out. More than once, the FCC has said its hands were tied. Real change in the retransmission consent laws would have to come from Congress, which passed the 1992 law governing the retransmission consent.