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Retrans Reform On FCC March Meeting: Sources

Look for the Federal Communications Commission's much-anticipated rulemaking proposal on retransmission-consent reforms to be voted on at the March 3 open meeting.

That is according to sources familiar with the FCC's agenda plans, who says to look for it on the tentative agenda list Thursday (Feb. 10) that the commission releases three weeks before the meeting.

The FCC is expected to provide more guidance on what constitutes good-faith bargaining in those retrans discussions, and perhaps identify specific practices that it would treat as violations of that
congressional mandate.

That was signaled by Media Bureau chief Bill Lake in a speech to the Media Institute in December.

The NPRM is in response to a request for reforms from a collection of cable operators, satellite companies and others, spearheaded by Time Warner Cable. They argue the system is weighted in broadcasters favor and that the result is increasingly consumer-unfriendly stalemates. Broadcasters argue their are relatively few of those, and that the system is just the markteplace working to compensate broadcasters better for their high-value content.

For his part, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has signaled his concern is consumer welfare rather than getting in the middle of negotiations.