Looking to combat runaway retrans costs -- and sometimes testy negotiations that lead to TV program blackouts -- cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp. filed a proposal with the Federal Communications Commission for some reforms.
The first would "end the practice of requiring the carriage of unrelated cable channels, owned by broadcasters, in order to also carry their broadcast networks."
Cablevision says this has allowed broadcasters free spectrum and other advantages, which in turn raises consumer costs by forcing carriage of their channels of "limited interest" in exchange for access to major broadcast networks.
Second, it proposes to demand "transparency." This would end the practice of allowing broadcasters to keep their prices for carrying broadcast stations a secret. Retrans fees should be public, it says.
The third proposal would forbid discrimination. While it would allow broadcasters to continue to set the price of carriage, it would not allow them to discriminate among cable and satellite providers based on size or other factors.
Tom Rutledge, chief operating officer of Cablevision Systems, stated, in reference to TV station "blackouts" that often result from failed retrans talks: "As the FCC and Congress know, consumers are the ones who are harmed when broadcasters pull or threaten to pull their networks from cable systems."
Cablevision's proposals come as the FCC has been reviewing the retransmission consent process between video program services and TV stations and programmers.