FCC Chief Rosenworcel Open to Beefing Up Agency’s Power Over Retrans Disputes

Jessica Rosenworcel at FCC confirmation hearing
FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel (Image credit: U.S. Senate)

FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel has told Congress she would welcome the chance to work with it to better protect consumers during retransmission-consent disputes, a point she has made before in discussing retrans-related blackouts (opens in new tab).

She expressed her view in a letter to Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, whose members had pushed the Federal Communications Commission to do everything it could to help resolve a retrans dispute — since resolved — between Nexstar Media Group and Verizon Communications affecting WPRI Providence.

The lawmakers encouraged the FCC to “do everything in its power to help bring the parties together so that negotiations can continue in good faith.”

In her response, Rosenworcel pointed out that the parties had resolved the dispute on their own.

She pointed out that neither Nexstar nor Verizon had filed a complaint alleging any violation of the law or rules on good-faith negotiations. Further, she said, the FCC's power over retrans is limited because under the law, “we cannot order or otherwise require carriage of a broadcast station during a dispute.”

But she suggested that was something she might like to see change, with Congress’s help. “I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and others in Congress on these matters so that consumers can be better protected in the future when disputes like these arise,” Rosenworcel wrote. ▪️

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.