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TWC: NAB Misled Judiciary Committee

Time Warner Cable has told the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee that a National Association of Broadcasters representative made misleading statements to the committee that raise antitrust concerns.

In the letter, dated Monday (Sept. 16), Time Warner Cable EVP Chief Government Relations Officer Gail MacKinnon said that it was "simply not the case" that TWC sought to prevent CBS from making its programming available to Hulu or Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, as she said NAB witness Gerry Waldron had maintained at last week's video regulation hearing in Judiciary's Courts, Intellectual Property and The Internet Subcommittee.

"Mr. Waldron's suggestion that TWC could try to preclude CBS from dealing with any of TWC's competitors is preposterous," said MacKinnon. "Even if TWC wanted to impose such a prohibition, our negotiations with CBS and other broadcasters make clear that, under the current retransmission consent regime, it is the broadcasters, not MVPD's, that have the power to force the terms they want," she wrote in the letter, which was addressed to the chairs and ranking members of the Judiciary Committee and the Courts, Intellectual Property and The Internet Subcommittee.

MacKinnon argued that Waldron's comments on the private negotiations between CBS and TWC during their recent retrans impasse, even though off the mark, must have come to the broadcaster association--which includes competitors to one another--from CBS. She said that raised antitrust concerns.

In his testimony, Waldron said that "an important part of the [CBS/Time Warner impasse issue] was online digital rights, so CBS could make that programming available to Hulu, Netflix and Amazon..."

By the time the hearing was held (Sept. 10), CBS CEO Les Moonves had already said publicly that one of the important issues in the negotiations, and one of the network's victories, was sharing its content online. "One of the things we won, one of the things we were fighting for, is the ability to slice and dice our content all over the place," he said Sept. 4 in talking about the deal. "To put it on Netflix, to put it on Amazon, to let people binge view. That's our inherent right to do that."

"Who are you going to believe, Time Warner Cable or press reports like this from The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times," said an NAB spokesman late Monday, referring B&C/Multi to stories in those newspapers about online access to programming. The NYT story, for example, referred to Time Warner Cable as among cable "gatekeepers " who were "trying to make it difficult--if not impossible--for Intel to go through with its plan [to create a virtual cable system online]."

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.