FCC may nix Retrans request

The Federal Communications Commission appears set to nix Hollywood’s request that broadcasters be forced to get permission from programmers before they cut future “retransmission consent” deals with cable operators.

That’s just one of the issues that will be decided by the FCC Thursday in a meeting that will be devoted to carrying out three provisions of the new cable reregulation law: The broadcast industry-backed must-carry/retransmission consent rules, cable customer service guidelines and an “anti-buy-through” provision that allows cable customers to buy premium channels without subscribing to mid-level tiers.

Under the cable law, broadcasters are given the option of deciding whether to be carried on the cable system under must-carry, or of bargaining for payment from the cabler via retransmission consent.

Hollywood fought unsuccessfully to kill retrans during last year’s cable bill fight, arguing that the provision did not recognize the interests of copyright owners.

The creative community has continued to press its case at the FCC, but commission sources say the agency is not about to issue rules that go against the wishes of Congress.

The FCC is expected, however, to say that broadcasters can be prohibited from taking retrans coin if existing program contracts bar them from doing so.

The issue of whether broadcasters should be forced to cough up retrans monies to Hollywood has split the programming community. Twentieth Television has said it won’t seek retrans revenues if its programming brethren agree. However, no such commitments have been forthcoming from the likes of Warner Bros., Disney or Paramount.

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