By Steve Donohue, FierceCable September 10, 2013
| Broadcasters may not be able to use the threat of blackouts to | squeeze increased retransmission-consent fees from pay TV | providers, if Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) wins support for a | bill released Monday. | | Introduced one week after Time Warner Cable and CBS Corp. | reached an agreement to end the 32-day blackout of CBS | stations and Showtime Networks, the bill would give the FCC | the power to grant "interim carriage" of a TV station during a | dispute.
| The 1992 Cable Act gives local broadcasters the option of | negotiating retransmission-consent deals with operators or | electing must-carry, which gives a station distribution | without compensation. Eshoo's bill would require stations that | elect retransmission consent to be carried on a tier separate | from basic cable tiers containing must-carry stations and PEG | (public, government, education) channels.
| While retransmission-consent reform advocates at the American | Cable Association and American Television Alliance cheered | Eshoo's bill, it drew criticism from lobbyists at the National | Association of Broadcasters. CEO Gordon Smith said the bill | has a "pro-pay TV slant" and would "embolden pay-TV giants to | continue to game the system rather than negotiate in the free | market for programming most valuable to viewers." Smith also | complained that the bill doesn't contain a provision that | would force operators to compensate subscribers who lose | programming during a blackout and doesn't address the practice | of pay TV distributors charging early termination fees to | subscribers who want to switch providers during a retrans | blackout.
"...embolden pay-TV giants to continue to game the system rather than negotiate in the free market for programming most valuable to viewers..." Meaning, apparently, that before forced to choose between paying whatever the station licensee demands or dropping the station is the same as "negotiating in a free market."