At press time FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to eliminate the syndicated exclusivity and network nonduplication rules had not been voted yet—except by the chairman, whose circulation of the order obviously indicates his support—and multiple sources said commissioners were still taking meetings and had not yet established their positions on the proposal.
Even some supporters of getting rid of the rules have suggested that the FCC should take no action unless Congress also eliminates the compulsory license that allows MVPDs to carry TV station programming without having to negotiate separately with each content provider for payment.
Broadcasters have been in many of those meetings, pushing back hard on the proposal. The National Association of Broadcasters organized a fly-in of TV station execs to argue against eliminating exclusivity rules they say are working and are crucial to preserving localism.
The rules prevent MVPDs from importing network or syndicated programming that duplicates programming on local TV stations, including when MVPDs can't strike retrans renewals and that programming is blacked out on systems serving those local markets—it is always still available over the air or in many cases on alternate providers like DBS or telco TV.
The FCC announced its tentative agenda for the Sept. 17 public meeting, and the syndex/nondupe order is not scheduled. That would force a vote, but the chairman would likely not do that unless he had the votes lined up to pass it, which may not yet be the case said one FCC source.
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.
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