NAB Tells FCC Retrans Should Be Default Election

Broadcasters have asked the FCC to reverse the presumption from "must-carry" to "retransmission consent" in carriage elections given that most stations now seek retrans payments, given the actual and associated costs of making those carriage elections, and given the potential cost of not having those elections go through.

Broadcasters have been collecting billions in retrans payments from MVPDs, with the fee tally continuing to increase.

In comments to the FCC on a proposal related to cable notifications, the National Association of Broadcasters focused on broadcasters' required must-carry/retrans notifications.

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Currently, if an MVPD does not get an election, the default is must-carry, which means mandatory carriage for no money.

"Today, the clear majority of commercial stations elect retransmission consent, and the number is likely to increase in the future.

"These stations cannot afford to lose the ability to negotiate for compensation for MVPDs’ carriage of their valuable signals," NAB said.

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And NAB suggested there are many opportunities for the must-carry default to be triggered for stations instead of wanting to be paid. Those include carriage notices "frequently" returned as undeliverable, "no central repository for the information necessary to (i) identify local cable systems and satellite providers and (ii) identify current, viable mailing addresses for those operators," as the TV network association also told the FCC.

In addition, NAB said it is a "tremendous burden of time, money and risk" providing the requisite election notice to MVPDs, as state broadcaster associations also told the FCC.

So, NAB wants the FCC to also allow broadcasters to make their elections by placing them in their online public files, which would put the onus on cable operators to check that file. Currently, broadcasters must make their elections to MVPDs by registered mail.

John Eggerton

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.