FCC willing to revisit cable retransmission rules

Rules that let broadcasters pull their signals off cable systems as part of financial disputes over retransmission fees "may have lost pace with changes in the marketplace" and therefore have caught the attention of the FCC, Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski says.

Broadcasters and cable operators have played chicken with TV signals for years but the matter erupted onto the national scene last weekend when Disney actually pulled ABC off Cablevision Systems in New York City for a while. The lockout nearly deprived 3.1 million households from seeing the Academy Awards broadcast that is inevitably too long and frequently tedious. Fortunately for those folks, though, the two sides negotiated a truce and the signal was restored shortly after the program began.

The near miss provided impetus for a cross-industry groups including Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Dish Network and Verizon to petition the FCC to do something about this. Time Warner, which has its own potential donnybrook in the wings this year as its broadcast retransmission contracts expire, spearheaded the effort. For its part, the National Association of Broadcasters thinks there's no need to change a system that's "working as Congress intended," according to NAB chair Paul Karpowicz.

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