Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) sent draft legislation to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday aimed at resolving the kind of dispute that left 3 million people in the New York area unable to watch the Giants game on Sunday and "House" on Monday night.
Cablevision subscribers have lost access to Fox channels as the company negotiates with Fox Networks about programming fees. The contract between the companies expired last week, and Fox has pulled its content until the companies find agreeable terms.
Broadcasters have the ability to pull their programming under rules for retransmission consent. Cable and satellite companies want the rules overhauled - they think broadcasters have too much power in the disputes.
Fairness is irrelevant. Most people wouldn't care if their Solyent Green is made using slave labor of children, and the children themselves, as long as it's not *their* children, if it's 10% cheaper.
Let's expand that a little further:
The consumers care about:
- seeing their favorite shows
- if they can't see their favorite shows, whether they can cancel without paying an ETF.
- if a channel they don't particularly want gets dropped, how come the price doesn't drop also?
I keep seeing ads claiming that Dish has dropped these channels, and they're about to drop these November 1, (including, interestingly, a local channel) go to this web site to find another provider who still carries them. Obviously, they are trying to drum up complaints about distributors dropping these channels.
There are also some situations left out, as the FCC seems to want to have all these agreements continue in perpetuity.
Scenario 5: The distributor has decided (based on an equipment failure that nobody reported) that no one has watched The Temperature in Degrees Delisle Channel in 5 years and wants to drop it. They think one postage stamp used to send the broadcaster a cancellation notice was way overpriced, but they did it anyway. They sent notices with bills to customers they were dropping it last year and they got 3 complaints (from people who obviously haven't watched it) about it being inappropriate for elementary school children.
Scenario 6: The broadcaster wants to quit producing their Vietnam War Breaking News Channel, regardless of how much they'll get paid for it. It's getting harder and harder to find new stuff to broadcast about the Vietnam War and their employees are getting bored with it. The war is OVER.
Scenario 7: The broadcaster and the distributor both want to call it quits.
If, by "a local channel," you're referring to WNYW (the Fox affiliate in the New York DMA), then I agree: it is interesting. After all, broadcast licensees have legal carriage rights with respect to MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors) that non-broadcast programmers do not enjoy.
Under federal law:
- A broadcast licensee can elect must-carry or retransmission-consent with respect to any MVPD that distributes its signal within its home DMA.
- A broadcast licensee has exclusive market protection within its DMA.
- A broadcast licensee (or its parent company) is permitted to bundle broadcast programming with non-broadcast programming.
- Every MVPD must deal with the licensee serving the DMA in which said MVPD distributes the licensee's signal.
- If a MVPD cannot reach a retransmission-consent agreement with a given licensee, it is prohibited from carrying same-network programming from any other broadcast station.
In any other business, this arrangement would be called a market monopoly. In the upside-down world of broadcast television, it's called "consumer protection."
In the case of the New York DMA, consider News Corporation. Among other things, NewsCorp owns:
- Fox Broadcasting Company (broadcast television network)
- WNYW Channel 5, the Fox affiliate broadcast station.
- Numerous non-broadcast program services. See list at
This situation gives NewsCorp the market power to charge whatever it wants for retransmission-consent for WNYW, *and* to demand its carriage on the basic tier, *and* to require carriage of some/all of its non-broadcast programming services, also on the basic tier. If a given MVPD cannot reach a retransmission-consent agreement for WNYW, NewsCorp then has the right to withhold carriage of WNYW *and* some/all non-broadcast programming.
So, yeah, if Dish Network and NewsCorp can't reach a retrans-consent agreement for WNYW, Dish will have to drop WNYW *and* drop whatever non-broadcast programming NewsCorp demands.
All in the name of consumer protection, of course.
Really? When did this change? I remember some years ago, in the second or third round of these negotiations, that an MSO in the Boston area was preparing to take a Providence affiliate if no carriage deal could be reached with the Boston affiliate of the same network. (Of course, in big chunks of the Boston DMA, second affiliates are carried on cable, and always have been -- but this was much closer to Boston.) If I could remember when this was, I'd know which network and stations were involved. (Boston currently has two network O&Os, WBZ-TV (CBS) and WFXT (Fox), plus CBS-owned independent WSBK and Hearst-owned ABC affils WCVB and WMUR. Providence for most of its history had no O&Os, but for a brief time had two -- WPRI (CBS) and WJAR (NBC) when Boston had none.)
If Congress acted today to eliminate or severly restrict retrans-consent (fat chance, I know), what effect would it likely have on cable bills? I know back in 1994, WBZ-TV (then an NBC affiliate) was getting a dollar a month from the local MSOs for every *CNBC* subscriber.
 We used to have Cablevision, Continental Cablevision, TCI, Time Warner, and Adelphia, all in their own territories; now we have Comcast, RCN, and Verizon, but most communities have only Comcast available.
 In the southern part of the market, WJAR (NBC) and WPRI (CBS); in New Hampshire, WMUR (ABC); and in far northern New Hampshire, WNNE (NBC). Both WMUR and WNNE are owned by Hearst.
 Probably not most households -- I think between the two overbuilders we have competition for a majority of households.