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McSlarrow: Comcast/NBCU Merger Won't Change NCTA's Approach To Retrans

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow says that the Comcast/NBCU merger (Comcast is an NCTA member) isn't going to change the association's approach to the issue of retransmission consent, which is that it should be a voice in the debate.

Asked that question following a speech at the Media Institute Wednesday, McSlarrow pointed out that when he first came on board, NCTA had a position of "just not playing in retransmission consent." He said his view was that "we are always safer on the side of letting the marektplace work and that retransmission consent is actually a very highly regulatory regime that ought to be reformed."

He has often pointed out the must-carry is a government thumb on the scale of what ought to be a free market negotiation.

"We have had various flash points on this," he said Wednesday, "and I think we have some more coming." But it has been decided that NCTA should have a voice in that debate, and the board agreed. "I don't see any scenario where that changes," he said.

He said he did not know what the reforms are, but said NCTA could be a place for "a lot of people with different interests," who could hopefully work them out.

"Kyle has presented a very cramped and incomplete reading of the First Amendment," responded net neutrality fan and Media Access Project President Andrew Schwartzman, who will likely be weighing in on the same issues at the FCC's planned network neutrality workshop next week. "First, when ISP's are transporting content, they are not themselves functioning as speakers entitled to First Amendment protection. More fundamentally, nothing in the First Amendment precludes governmental action to insure that speech of others is not blocked or inhibited for anti-competitive reasons. Indeed, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment not only prohibits certain government action, but it also requires government to take affirmative action to create platforms for robust civic discourse and a vibrant marketplace of ideas."