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Government

Cable and satellite providers want revised FCC rules and fees

Several cable and satellite broadcast providers want the FCC to overhaul the fee schedules and rewrite the dispute regulations.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor on

Reuters' reports that several cable and satellite broadcast providers want the FCC to overhaul the fee schedules and rewrite the dispute regulations.

The group, which includes rival TV distributors such as Time Warner Cable Inc (TWC.N), DirecTV Group (DTV.O) and Dish Network Corp (DISH.O) serve more than 65 million U.S. homes. They will file a petition with the FCC, which argues the current retransmission consent regime is flawed.

The most recent dispute was when Walt Disney Co's (DIS.N) ABC Network pulled its signals from New York's Cablevision Systems Corp (CVC.N) on the eve of the Oscars. Time Warner Cable also had a public fight with News Corp's (NWSA.O) Fox network on New Year's eve.

Canadian broadcasters have tried to get regulatory change with the CRTC since 2008 and are currently hosting hearings on the matter. FCC Commissioners will face pressure from Congress with protests by ABC and Disney pulling stunts with its viewers on a regular basis. Legislation could be drafted this year.

In a letter to members of Congress, the cable companies said it was time to "restore balance" to the retransmission consent process and protect consumers from TV blackouts.

"We respectfully urge you and other Members of Congress to carefully examine the circumstances that have resulted in the current imbalance in retransmission consent negotiations."

If the FCC were to agree to such a framework, it could weaken the negotiating stance of the broadcasters who have the right to switch off a signal at the end of a contract if they do not reach a new agreement with the distributor.

Cable operators which have been diversifying their product portfolios, adding VOIP and IPTV offerings along with Internet services, may see a new type of service by media broadcast companies, shutting off signals and delivering over the air or the Internet and charging for programming directly at higher rates than what the cable companies pay now. The cable operators services that bundle up program packages would also be thrown in disarray, hurting their revenue options. This may be the last decade that any of the players play nice together across North America.

Additional resources:

FCC releases 'Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan'

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