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TWC Presses FCC to Reform Retrans

Time Warner Cable lawyer Matthew Brill wrote to the FCC Monday, saying the retrans impasse with CBS and resulting blackout, including CBS content on TWC broadband service, was new evidence of a "broken" system that needs mending.

The American Television Alliance, of which TWC is a member, has been calling for FCC and congressional intervention as well, but TWC attorneys also made a stand-alone pitch in an ex parte letter submitted to the open FCC docket on retrans reforms it proposed back in 2011--no action has been taken in the docket.

Echoing arguments the company has made before, TWC counsel Matthew Brill said the FCC should not be reluctant to mandate interim carriage during disputes and should require the unbundling of TV signals from co-owned channels by ruling (Brill says "clarifying") that good faith negotiation requires stand-alone terms for retrans.

The CBS/TWC blackout is in its fifth day with no end in sight at press time. But even with the heated, and increasingly personal, rhetoric on both sides and calls for government intervention, past retrans disputes have often ended in "kiss and make up" statements. It remains to be seen whether this fight, in which digital rights have played an arguably uniquely prominent role, is more of the same or has turned a new corner.