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FCC: Retrans Framework Under Review

The issue of retransmission consent and whether that process needed fixing was a running theme during the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the Comcast/NBCU deal Thursday.

Leading the pack was Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who weighed in during the WABC/Cablevision retrans impasse suggesting the process needed government help.

Kerry asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski what the impact of the merger would be on those negotiations and the affects on consumers.

Genachowksi said he could not speak to the specific deal before the commission, but said the retrans framework had been under "active consideration" at least since Christmas week and New Year's Day. That is when a retrans impasse between Fox and Time Warner threatened some college football bowl games.

He said a lot of consumers were concerned and wondered why they should be affected by the business dispute between the two companies. But he also said those companies have a right to engage in those transactions and negotiate the terms.

He said the FCC is increasingly hearing arguments that the retrans framework in place "for a long time" may have "lost pace" with marketplace changes. He said the commission is beginning the process of reviewing whether there are improvements that can be made and "whether reforms are sensible."

"DISH Network applauds any effort by Chairman Genachowski to review the outmoded retransmission consent rules from the early 1990s. Contrary to broadcaster assertions, retransmission consent increasingly resembles a hostage situation, not a free market negotiation," said the company in a statement,

DISH was one of the companies that this week petitioned the FCC for just such a review.