FCC to Open Up Proceeding on Retrans?

The Federal Communications Commission may be preparing to officially open up a proceeding on retransmission consent reform, placing the item on the agenda for its monthly meeting Feb. 8. If so, the retrans item will turn up on the FCC’s agenda notice next week on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

The item could also be handled on circulation.

The FCC promised to take up retransmission consent rules last December. As a result of the FCC’s commitment to move on the issue, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) pulled legislation he drafted.

Word is that the FCC Media Bureau has sent a draft proposal of the Notice for Proposed Rule Making to chairman Julius Genachowski. An FCC spokeswoman declined comment.

In a speech before The Media Institute in December, Bill Lake, chief of the FCC Media Bureau, said the Media Bureau’s notice would examine what authority the FCC might have to protect consumers from blackouts by gauging whether or not the parties in retrans negotiations are acting in “good faith.”

The news that the FCC may be stepping in comes as Time Warner Cable and Sinclair Broadcast Group continue to lock horns over a new carriage deal covering Sinclair’s 33 TV stations. The deadline, extended twice, is now set for 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15.