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Broadcasters Seek More Time to Mull Retrans Issues

Broadcasters want more time to mull the FCC's own mulling of what constitutes good faith retransmission consent negotiations, pointing to the upcoming decisions they have to make about participating in the broadcast incentive auction and the 'unique opportunities' it presents.

Congress required the FCC to undertake the inquiry, specifically looking at what the FCC should consider in the "totality of circumstances" test.

In a filing with the FCC Friday, the National Association of Broadcasters joined by the Big Four network affiliate associations asked the FCC to grant it an extension of the deadlines for comment, pointing to the "myriad complicated issues associated with determining whether and how to participate in, and submitting applications for, the upcoming spectrum incentive auction."

Comments are currently due Dec. 1, 2015, and reply comments Dec. 31, 2015. They want the new comment deadlines to be Feb. 1, 2015 and March 2, 2015. The FCC has been known to move New Years’ Eve and other holiday-impinging deadlines, though not always. But it is the days before that broadcasters talk about.

"The Broadcast Associations and our members want to respond fully and completely to the numerous detailed questions in the Notice; to do so effectively, the Associations need time to gather information from our members... The Associations and our members, however, will be unable to participate fully in this retransmission consent proceeding and provide a comprehensive record to the Commission under the current comment deadlines, given the FCC’s recently set, overlapping deadlines for the approaching spectrum incentive auction."

There is a Dec.18 deadline for filing those incentive auction applications, which the petitioners point out is final.

Given that the FCC wants broadcasters to participate in that auction, the request could receive a receptive audience on those grounds.

"For the incentive auction to succeed, it is vital that TV broadcasters now focus on the reverse auction and the unique opportunities it presents," they told the commission. "Beyond ensuring the submission of more complete information in the retransmission consent rulemaking, the requested extension would materially assist broadcasters in their auction preparation and in meeting the FCC’s strict deadline for auction participation," the broadcasters said.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.