Senate, Heal Thyself: Listen to C-SPAN, Ax Retrans < Cable

Cablevision and WABC-7 solved their dispute, but not before a few Politicians took the opportunity to use the struggle as a platform to raise their voice.

"[T]his game of chicken being played again and again between cable companies and broadcasters with consumers in the crosshairs must come to an end."

That was the word Wednesday from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, who pushed Fox and Time Warner Cable last fall to resolve their retransmisson-consent dispute before football games got blacked out.  Now, Kerry’s weighing in at the Federal Communications Commission on the WABC-TV/Cablevision retrans fight, asking the agency to urge the parties to stay at the table and continue airing the station over the cable system in the interim.

via Kerry: Game Of Retrans Chicken Must End – 2010-03-03 21:33:58 | Multichannel News.

Then, of course, there was the minority rebuttal:

Barton wrote. "Pay TV providers have more sources of content and programmers have more sources of distribution than ever before," he said. "In light of this competitive marketplace, justification for government intervention has all but evaporated."

via Barton TO FCC: Let Cablevision, WABC Work It Out – 2010-03-04 01:12:12 | Multichannel News.

These public statements were countered and re-countered by everyone involved:

until a resolution was found without the arbitration Cablevision offered, nor government intervention.  While terms have not been disclosed, money solved the argument, just as everyone knew it would.

Among all the chirping, one of the more interesting proponents of removing the retransmission consent was not a Cable MSO, but C-SPAN.

The cable public-affairs programmer, whose networks must compete for channel space with over-the-air stations that elect must-carry, has long argued that giving broadcasters a guaranteed right to carriage — while requiring networks such as C-SPAN to vie for what space is left — violates the First Amendment.

via C-SPAN Urges High Court to Deep-Six Must-Carry Rules – 2010-03-01 17:23:36 | Multichannel News

In fact, one Cable MSO in particular, Time Warner seems OK with it and sees retransmission as a piece in the bigger TV Everywhere puzzle.  Time Warner does not want signals pulled, as more networks display a willingness to resort to such negotiation tactics, at the affiliate level.

Back to C-SPAN, who wants to level the playing field a bit by removing the antiquated retransmission rights, do they realize there are alternatives out there? C-SPAN

  • has a YouTube Channel
  • could negotiate sub-channels throughout the major Designated Market Area (DMA)
  • knows enough higher ups to get itself on the air

After all, does C-SPAN need to be in HD?  C-SPAN could call in some favors and get precious spectrum, but that is seen as too much of a potential revenue stream.

What should the Senate do? Treat C-SPAN and all the other networks the same.  Get rid of the retransmission and allow the viewers decide how and what they want to pay for and watch.  Today, revenue from online viewing is not TV dollars, but rather proverbial digital pennies.  But what if that were suddenly a viable alternative to a PayTV package?  Only time will tell if cable and satellite operators get what they wish.  Happy viewing.

Reassigning the Broadcast Spectrum via YouTube – CSPAN’s Channel
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