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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should take a stronger stand to protect consumers in disputes between broadcasters and cable or satellite companies over program carriage, Public Knowledge and the New America Foundation said today.
The comments are here.
In comments filed with the FCC, the two groups said the Commission has more authority to act than it is willing to acknowledge, and should not be hesitant to do so. The groups said they disagreed with the FCC's analysis of the agency's power, and that the Commission has "ample authority" to impose interim carriage or mandatory arbitration in the case of deadlocked negotiations in which consumers are caught in the middle.
The groups agreed with the FCC that it should be a violation of FCC rules if parties declined to put forward good-faith proposals during negotiations, as should requirements that broadcasters require purchase of other programming services. Broadcasters and programming carriers should also be required to submit data on retransmission contract provisions, the groups said.
However, the groups warned that "for these rules to be effective, the Commission has to enforce them," adding " the Commission has thus far shirked away from any meaningful enforcement" of its existing rules. In the one instance in which the FCC found rule violations, the Commission "merely required the parties to resume negotiations within 10 days and report on the status of the negotiation every 30 days. Such timid enforcement sends a message to powerful parties to these negotiations that they can ignore the good faith requirements with impunity."