Cable Operators Suggest Putting Retrans Stations On Tier

A group of midsized cable operators has asked the FCC to move retrans stations off the must-buy tier as one of the ways to reform the retransmission-consent process.

That came in a filing Tuesday at the Federal Communications Commission, which is seeking comment on what, if any, changes to make to the retransmission-consent regime. Proposing the switch were Massillon Cable TV, WaveDivision Holdings, NPG Cable Inc., the Comporium Group and Harron Communications.

They say that allowing cable operators to place "for-pay retransmission consent signals" on a separate, non-mandatory tier would allow customers to not pay for broadcast channels.

Currently, must-carry and retransmission-consent stations must be offered on the basic tier, while operators have the freedom to place cable channels on different tiers.

"For there to be truly a free market, television broadcast stations that require a fee for retransmission should be treated no better than any satellite cable programmer and should lose all rights to be carried on the mandatory basic tier," the operators said.

The operators also want the FCC to get rid of the network nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity rules so that cable operators can find alternatives to broadcast stations demanding retransmission cash.

The rules prevent competing network affiliates or syndicated programs to be imported into markets in competition to local stations with the same content.

John Eggerton

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.