As part of the cable reregulation law passed last year, Congress gave broadcasters the right to elect either must-carry or retransmission consent from the local cable operator.

Broadcasters selecting must-carry would be assured continued carriage on the cable system.

Those selecting retrans could negotiate cash payments from the cable operator, or other benefits such as a cabler’s pledge to promote the broadcast station. Broadcasters selecting the retrans option take a big risk, since cablers are not required to make any cash payments, and since the cable operator ultimately could yank the TV station off the system.

Under rules adopted by the FCC yesterday, here is the timetable for broadcasters to pick must/carry or retrans:

o March 31: The new FCC rules are published in the Federal Register.

o April 30: Cable systems must notify all broadcasters not eligible for continued must-carry protection.

o May 30: Cable systems must begin carriage of must-carry complement of TV stations.

o June 15: Local TV stations must notify cable operator whether it intends to continue must-carry status or seek retransmission consent. Stations picking must-carry must also tell the cabler on which channel it wishes to be carried. Those stations not notifying a cable operator of its intent to elect retransmission consent automatically receives must-carry protection.

o Aug. 1: FCC expects most retransmission consent negotiations to have concluded.

o Sept. 6: Deadline for cablers to notify its customers it will be removing a TV stations from the system as a result of failed retransmission consent negotiations.

o Oct. 6: All retransmission consent provisions take effect.

All dates except Oct. 6 may be off slightly, depending on when the final FCC rules are published in the Federal Register.

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