New regs from FCC

Commish's carriage rules may irk satcasters

WASHINGTON — Satcasters may be disappointed today when the FCC issues new rules governing their negotiations with broadcasters over carriage of local TV channels.

The Federal Communications Commission, as some broadcasters had hoped, did not support a proposal that would require satcasters and broadcasters to submit to mediation if negotiations break down. The rules, which the FCC is expected to release today, do allow parties to bring disagreements to the agency under a claim of bad-faith negotiations.

EchoStar also wanted rules that would require broadcasters to give satcasters the deals that have been offered to cablers. But the FCC is expected to avoid making such an explicit declaration when it releases the formal rules today.

Clock is ticking

EchoStar is negotiating with CBS, ABC and NBC over the terms and conditions for providing local signals in several markets. The clock is ticking on the negotiations, and under current law, EchoStar must stop transmitting the local channels on May 29 if it has not closed a deal. DirecTV already has deals with Fox, NBC and ABC. EchoStar only has a deal with Fox.

Although the regulations are focused on negotiations between satcasters and broadcasters, cablers will be watching the ruling closely. That’s because cablers and broadcasters have been having a tough time in several markets reaching agreement on deals on cable carriage of broadcast channels. Time Warner has proposed that the rules be extended to cover cable-broadcast negotiations as well.

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