WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Communications Commission’s chairman said on Thursday he will not propose new rules on negotiations between broadcasters and pay-TV providers over retransmission rights.
In recent years, there have been a number of fights that have led to temporary blackouts in the United States of some channels on cable or satellite providers - including a dispute between DISH Network Corp and Tribune Media Co.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that “it is clear that more rules in this area are not what we need at this point.”
Congress told the FCC in 2014 to look at its rules governing good-faith negotiations for retransmission consent. The FCC has a two-part framework to determine whether broadcasters and pay TV providers are negotiating in good faith.
Wheeler said what is not needed is “more rules, but for both sides in retransmission consent negotiations to take seriously their responsibility to consumers, who expect to watch their preferred broadcast programming without interruption and to receive the subscription TV service for which they pay.”
The National Association of Broadcasters praised Wheeler for deciding no new rules are needed. “Broadcasters remain fully committed to reaching agreements with pay TV companies in good faith,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the group.
American Cable Association President Matthew Polka said the group is “appalled” by the decision that “ignores the plight of millions of consumers served by (pay TV providers) who have repeatedly been victimized by broadcasters’ heavy-handed bargaining tactics.”
Wheeler cited the dispute between DISH and Tribune as an example of the FCC’s engagement in the issue.
Last month, Tribune chose to remove its television channels from Dish Network systems across the United States. Dish said its customers lost access to 42 local channels in 33 markets across 34 states and the District of Columbia. Its viewers also lost access to cable channel WGN America.
Dish has said Tribune is demanding an unreasonable rate increase and filed a lawsuit against Tribune, which Tribune called frivolous.
Tribune said Dish refused to reach an agreement based on “fair-market value” that Dish already pays other local station groups.
Wheeler summoned both parties to Washington to negotiate with staff. The FCC issued comprehensive information requests to both sides to determine whether they were meeting their duty to negotiate in good faith, Wheeler said. He said the FCC is currently reviewing their responses.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool