WGAW: Stations Deserve More MVPD Gold From TV's Golden Age

TV writers tell the FCC that TV is in a golden age of content, and it should not prevent broadcasters from getting more of that gold in the form of carriage deals with MVPDs.

The Writers Guild of America, West, has joined broadcasters in asking the FCC to keep its hands off the retransmission consent regime. WGAW represents the creators of broadcast content, which it says is highly valuable and for which broadcasters are simply now getting a fairer price for.

In comments to the FCC in its review of what constitutes good faith negotiations in retrans disputes, WGAW said that hard bargaining and a rise in retrans payments to broadcasters do not justify overhauling the system.

"We are living in a new Golden Era of Television and the value of quality content is increasing," said the union. "The existing retransmission consent rules allow broadcasters to capture their fair share of that increased value." 

The FCC is under orders from Congress to review what factors it includes in its "totality of circumstances" test for good faith. Those are the things it takes into account in deciding whether negotiations are in good faith, rather than those things that are de facto bad faith, though MVPDs are arguing for adding de facto bad faith elements—like blocking online access to programming or blackouts—as part of that review.

WGAW said that MVPD claims of widespread bad faith are based on paucity of anecdotal evidence or "exceptional cases."

WGAW says that some of the proposed changes exceed Congress' directive in an attempt to "tack on a laundry list of prohibitions to the per se standard," while others would "entangle" the commission in "endless retrans negotiations."

Boiling it down, WGAW said: "The underlying dynamic of the retransmission market is neither a function of bad faith nor of regulatory failure; it is a function of the fact that the introduction of competition on the distribution side has allowed broadcasters to finally capture fair value for the content and rights they license to multichannel video programming distributors."

John Eggerton

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.