FCC taking hands off of broadcast retransmission battles

The FCC has no inclination to act as a referee between broadcasters and cable operators grappling over retransmission fees. At least, a couple of top advisors to FCC commissioners think that's what their bosses believe.

Sherrese Smith, legal advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that retransmission fights with the threat of stations pulling off of cable networks are a "market situation" and anyway, most staredowns end before the stations get pulled. Rosemary Harold, legal advisor to Robert McDowell, was even plainer in the Commission's feelings about it. Broadcasters, she said, are not acting in "bad faith" when they are "asking for more money" from cable operators.

On Tuesday, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, about to become a broadcaster when the MSO acquires NBC Universal, conceded that "it seems clear that retransmission fees are going to be paid" and that local broadcasting "has really come back," indicating it's a valuable commodity. Important words from a tough negotiator.

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