Time Warner Seeks Retrans Overhaul

Time Warner Cable wants retransmission consent reformed, claiming that broadcasters are using the process in a manner that is causing cable rates to rise.

Time Warner Cable general counsel Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum and Time Warner Inc. vice president Steven Teplitz outlined their concerns during an Oct. 14 meeting at the Federal Communications Commission with Media Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree.

“We argued that the current retransmission-consent process is in need of reform. Many more stations are electing retransmission consent than Congress could possibly have imagined when it enacted retransmission consent 12 years ago,” Teplitz said in an Oct. 15 FCC filing.

Time Warner’s letter did not specify reforms. In the past, the MSO has indicated to the FCC that cable systems should not have to pay compensation to deliver TV signals because those signals are available free-of-charge to anyone with a TV antenna.

About 80% of commercial TV stations elect retransmission consent, which allows stations to seek cash for carriage from cable operators. However, many TV stations use retransmission consent as leverage to gain carriage of affiliated cable programming in lieu of cash just for the broadcast signal.

“This has led to the expanded carriage of broadcast-affiliated programming and increases in cable rates,” Time Warner Cable said.

FCC chairman Michael Powell and other have noted that the use of retransmission consent to launch and sustain cable networks was a trend encouraged by the cable industry the early 1990s, when cable systems told broadcasters they didn’t want to pay cash for TV signals that were free to the public.