TV Retransmission Rules Need a Free-Market Rewrite
Digital Liberty submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today in their proceeding on retransmission consent regulations (PDF) that guide how TV broadcasters and cable operators negotiate to deliver content to consumers. The rules, established back in 1992, are not only out of date, but restrict companies from negotiating in a free market.
In the comments we urged the FCC not to expand upon it's current authority by setting new regulations, but instead to work with Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office (which sets royalties for program copyright licenses) to undergo a fundamental re-write of the retransmission consent, must-carry, and compulsory licensing regime. We also called on the Commission to scrap current rules, such as non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity regulations, that trump private contracts by unilaterally preventing cable operators from importing the same station from another local broadcast affiliate. From our comments:
In recent years, fundamental changes have occurred in the programming distribution market. Consumers today enjoy a growing number of options to receive programing from broadcasters, cable, satellite, and broadband operators, as well as online subscription services. Yet, the retransmission consent, must-carry, and compulsory licensing regulations that currently oversee content distribution are antiquated and prevent broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) from negotiating in a free market. …
We urge the Commission to work with Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office to set a clearer path for moving all retransmission consent, must-carry, and compulsory licensing rules in a free-market direction. Ultimately, the current system inhibits balanced, free-market negotiations between MVPDs and broadcasters from taking place. While clear the Commission must also work within its statutory authority, which largely does not permit it to dismantle the current regulatory regime, we believe the proposed changes are a band-aid solution that does not attack the root of problems arising in retransmission disputes.
Click here for a PDF copy of Digital Liberty's retransmission comments to the FCC.