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NAB President Smith 'Surprised' By 'Pro Pay TV' Slant of Eshoo Bill

National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith said Monday that a new draft retransmission consent bill could "embolden pay-TV giants," to "game the system." The former senator said he had "Great personal affection" for Eshoo, but was surprised that the bill was slanted toward distributors and strongly opposes it.

The bill, which was circulated in advance of a hearing this week on video regulation, would allow the FCC to grant cable and satellite ops interim carriage during retrans impasses, would not require cable ops to offer retrans stations as must-buys in basic service, as they have to do with must-carry stations, would unbundle cable and TV station programming deals (a la the John McCain a la carte bill), asks the FCC to look at whether blackouts should be allowed under the FCC's good faith negotiations standards, and seeks an FCC study of sports programming costs.

"Fundamentally, there is no such thing as a 'black-out' of broadcast TV programming. Our programming is always on, and always available to viewers on multiple platforms, including free to over-the-air antenna households.

"Our overriding goal is to increase viewer access to broadcast programming," he said. "A truly 'pro-consumer' bill would ask whether Time Warner Cable's attempts to restrict that access to only its 'TV Everywhere' model does the same. Moreover, it is troubling that a proposal billed as 'pro-consumer' continues to allow pay-TV providers to avoid viewer rebates for loss of broadcast TV programming during a disruption. Coincidentally, the draft bill is also silent on ending the practice of charging consumers upwards of $200 in 'early termination fees' to shift to another pay-TV provider during a disruption."

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.