Skip to main content

CBS' Franks: Some Distributors Trying to Game Retrans System

CBS chief retrans negotiator Martin Franks says that the
Cable Act of 1992 was one of the "great Washington public policy
accomplishments" of the past 20 years, citing as an example that almost
all of the some 15,000 retrans negotiations every three years are completed

Those that haven't, he suggests, can be traced in part to a
"handful" of distributors trying to game the system to their own

For CBS' part, he points out, all of its retrans deals in
the past six years have been concluded "without incident."

That came in written testimony for the July 24 Senate
Commerce Committee hearing on the Cable Act at 20. Franks says that any
"tampering" with retransmission consent laws and rules could have
"severe" negative results, including to the U.S. economy to which
broadcast TV contributes.

Franks argues that to the degree that impasses are more
frequent, it is because a handful of distributors believe that disruptions
could help them advance their public policy goals by making "a working
model look broken."

Franks says that the same MVPDs who are calling for
deregulation have been pushing the past few years for even more retrans
regulations, including mandated standstills and arbitration.

He suggests that would involve the government as a third
party in negotiations, leading the FCC to focus on "nothing but

By contrast, he said, the current system, in which both
broadcasters have skin in the game --stations want to be carried, distributors
want their popular programming -- is the best incentive to reach an agreement.

Franks said broadcasters are bound by the public interest
standard that is the quid pro quo for a government license, but he suggests it
is not in the public's interest for broadcast programming to be retransmitted
without permission.