Senate to look at TV blackouts in wake of Cablevision retrans spat

Better late than never--literally, perhaps, considering the lame duckery of the U.S. Congress--the Senate Commerce Communications subcommittee is going to hold a hearing on rules for retransmission negotiations.

The hearing, scheduled for Nov. 17, comes in the wake of a nasty fight between News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) and Cablevision Systems (NYSE: CVC) that left New York metro cable subscribers without access to the scintillating World Series between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants being shown on Fox broadcast networks. Almost from the start of the News Corp. blackout, Cablevision execs called on the FCC and other governmental agencies to help.

"We thought the FCC should be involved; that's why we asked them to be involved and they chose not to be," Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge said during a third quarter earnings conference call. "We were disappointed that they chose not to be involved."

The FCC maintained its hands were tied by current laws covering retransmission negotiations so the John Kerry-led Senate subcommittee is looking at how existing cable regulation let such a travesty occur. Broadcasters, of course, believe there's no need to change anything because blackouts (unless they involve Cablevision) are rare and the process otherwise works.

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Related articles:
Cablevision 3Q call: Fox retrans fight 'very unpleasant way of doing business'
The power of sports: Kerry advances anti-blackout bill

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