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Upton: Retrans Regime Should Not Favor Either Party

Energy & Commerce
Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said Monday that neither Congress nor
the FCC should be getting in the middle of retransmission consent negotiations.

"As we look at
retransmission consent, I think we shouldn't have legislation mandating
carriage arrangements...There are very few cases where we haven't seen an
agreement between the parties."

Until he saw otherwise,
he said, the private sector should be allowed to work it out itself. That
line drew strong applause from broadcasters Upton was speaking to at the
National Association of Broadcasters' State Leadership Conference in Washington

He suggested that part
of that free market equation that drives the vast majority of deals without
signal pulling is big ticket sporting events like March Madness or the World
Series; those prompt viewers to put pressure on all parties to do a deal before
the contracts expire.

 The FCC plans to launch
a rulemaking Thursday (March 4) to better define what negotiating retrans
in good faith means, and to ask how it can better enforce that requirement, or
interpret its authority to prevent signal blackouts that affect consumers.

 The commission is expected
to assert that it lacks the authority to mandate standstill agreements or
outside arbitration, though it could address those issues in some form
depending on how it defines good faith bargaining.