High ‘Hill’ For Retransmission Reforms

Washington —Don’t look for the House’s principal
communications-oversight subcommittee to be pushing
retransmission-consent reforms.

That was one consensus from the American Cable Association’s
Washington Summit, where the House Communications
Subcommittee chairman, Rep. Greg Walden
(R-Ore.), advised operators that while the FCC was open to
input — ACA members were in town to push their policy
agenda, which includes a hefty remake of retransmission
consent — he wasn’t looking for them to take big steps, and
he was not looking to step in either.

Walden said he already thinks
the FCC is exceeding its authority
in promulgating network-neutrality
rules, which he is trying to block, In
the case of retransmission-consent
reform, he added, even the FCC
thinks its authority is limited.

“It is not my idea to get to a point
to be regulating one side or the other,”
Walden said. “I prefer a competitive,
open marketplace where
two parties can work out a financial agreement
among them.”

A cable operator in the audience countered
that the rules as set in the 1992 Cable Act have
made the market noncompetitive, particularly
for ACA members. Walden said Congress should
“always review” regulations, particularly amidst
such enormous change, but when pressed again
about a marketplace that smaller operators have
said is broken, Walden refused to preach to the

“When the FCC itself admits it may not have authority,
that is a revolutionary thing in this town,”
he said, though he added that he “gets” that operators
need to be able to negotiate.

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.