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FCC Barely Budges on Retrans Comment Deadlines

The FCC's Media Bureau has only minimally granted the NAB's request to extend the comment deadline on the FCC's retransmission consent proceeding, only extending the reply comment deadline--which takes it past the New Year holiday--and only by two weeks, rather than the several weeks NAB had sought to delay both initial and reply deadlines.

Per a congressional directive, the FCC is reviewing the definition of good-faith retrans negotiations.

The comment deadlines for initial and reply comments had been Dec. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2015, respectively. Saying its members had an incentive auction to focus on, NAB had asked the FCC to move both, to Feb. 1, and March 2, respectively. Instead, the FCC Friday said it would extend the reply deadline by two weeks to Jan. 14.

The American Television Alliance had opposed the request, arguing that broadcasters had already had plenty of notice about the proceeding. The Media Bureau agreed, pointing out that it had given commenters 60 days rather than the usual 30 as it was.

In a filing with the FCC last week, 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."

The message was that if the FCC wanted broadcasters' full attention on the auction, it should give them more time to mull retrans. "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.  The FCC did not agree, or at only two weeks' worth. 

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.