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Barton To FCC: Let Cablevision And WABC Work It Out

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Wednesday, Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, advised the commission that marketplace negotiations were best left to the marketplace.

His letter followed one from Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) advising the commission that the government needs to step in to protect consumers and fix what he has long said is a broken process.

"[G]overnment-forced arbitration or other regulatory meddling should be seen for what they are: attempts by parties to get a leg up in a private negotiation," he said. "Pay TV providers have more sources of content and programmers have more sources of distribution than ever before," he said. "In light of this competitive marketplace, justification for government intervention has all but evaporated."

WABC has threatened to pull its signal March 6 if it fails to reach an agreement with Cablevision on a retransmission consent deal for the station. Kerry in his letter said broadcasters should not get to pull those signals unless they have first complained to the FCC that cable operators are not operating in good faith and the FCC has concluded the complaint has merit.

Rebecca Campbell, president and GM of WABC-TV, gave Barton a shout-out for his stand.

"In his letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Representative Joe Barton, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made clear the vital importance of market-based negotiations in preserving viewers' interests in a competitive and diverse media marketplace. Unfortunately, Cablevision's refusal to reach a fair and reasonable agreement and its recent efforts to undermine the negotiation process runs counter to that principle. We thank Ranking Member Barton for standing up for our viewers."