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Public Interest Groups Underwhelmed By FCCRetrans Move

Retrans reform fans Free Press and Public Knowledge were less than enthused by the FCC's proposed brand of retrans retooling.

Free Press said the FCC had fallen short in its proposed rulemaking approved Thursday (March 3). The commission is looking into clarifying good-faith negotiations, increasing notice of possible blackouts, and excising rules that prevent MVPD's from importing alternative stations if local stations don't agree to carriage deals.

“While today's item addresses a problem that is an increasing burden on consumers, we had hoped they would go further," said Free Press Political Adviser Joel Kelsey in a statement. "The FCC needs to do more to help consumers, instead of just helping the cable companies and broadcasters," he said. "This market is broken, and so-called good-faith bargaining does little to prevent subscribers from losing access to channels they are paying for when a dispute arises.”

Public Knowledge suggested the FCC's heart was in the right place, but...

"The commission has the right intentions in proposing changes to the retransmission consent rules," said Public Knowledge Legal Director Harold Feld. "Consumers are the victims in these fights between media giants.

“We hope that at some point the commission will come to realize it has the statutory authority to relieve the consumer distress at being caught in the middle of the disputes.  We will make that point again to the commission, and hope it will take a more active role than it has in the past in bringing some order to the retransmission chaos.”