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Moonves Pitches FCC's Wheeler On Maintaining Retrans Regime

On the eve of the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington—CBS hosted a big party—CBS president and CEO Les Moonves (pictured) stopped by the FCC to meet with chairman Tom Wheeler about a variety of issues, including why the FCC should not tinker with retrans.

According to an ex parte notice submitted by CBS lawyers, Moonves, who has led CBS' aggressive charge to charge cable operators for its high-value content, urged the chairman to "maintain the current regime." He argued that the retrans second revenue stream was critical to CBS' ability to continue to produce sports and entertainment and news.

Wheeler has tied his retrans reform efforts, which include disallowing some coordinated negotiations and asking whether syndicated exclusivity and network nonduplication rules should be eliminated, to the size of consumer's cable bills.

But Moonves said that given the size of its audience, CBS stations and affiliates "deserve the highest fees they can negotiate in the marketplace."

Moonves also talked about the FCC's proposal to eliminate the sports blackout rule, as well as the nonduplication and syndex rules.

Finally, the FCC has yet to vote on an order eliminating the UHF discount, though it has voted to propose eliminating it and has treated any new station transfer applications since that vote last fall as though the discount was gone. Moonves said that if the FCC eliminates the discount, it should raise the 39% national cap on station ownership. And while CBS does not have any joint sales agreements, he pointed out that some owners may need them to remain "economically viable."