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Indie Channels Push For Retrans Action

Representatives of independent cable nets were in Washington
Thursday to ask the FCC to launch a proceeding revamping the retransmission
consent process.

According to an e-mail from the American Television Alliance,
which was launched by cable, satellite, phone companies and others to push
for retrans reform, members Outdoor Channel, Starz, Africa Channel,
Retirement Living TV and the Gospel Movie Channel also signed on to a
letter calling on Congress to urge the FCC to step in and citing recent
statements by CBS executives
that keeping retrans payments from coming out
of consumers pockets would be to lower the payments to non-broadcast affiliated

They argue those comments "vividly illustrate" the need
for reform.

The independent channels say that making independent networks fund
their broadcast network competitors by bearing the retrans costs would be
a "direct assault" on independent programmers and a threat to the
public interest benefit of a diversity of voices.

They argue that broadcasters already have "special government-granted
privileges" like must-carry and basic tier guarantees that independent
cable programmers don't, and can bundle their co-owned channels into carriage
deals, citing the Disney/Time Warner Cable agreement that included carriage of
Disney Junior and ESPN 3D, among others.

"We ask you strongly to urge the FCC to undertake a review of
its outdated rules," the letter concludes, copies of which were sent to
the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Commerce and Judiciary

The FCC has been asked to open a rulemaking into changes to
the retrans system, including keeping TV signals on cable and satellite
systems during impasses and creating an outside arbitration system. The issue
of unbundling of TV stations from cable channels negotiations has also been raised.