The following statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:
“If there’s a major event, it must be time for consumers to be put at risk as cable operators and Fox-affiliated broadcast television stations fight over retransmission rights. So far this year, viewers have been threatened with the loss of the Super Bowl and the Oscars.
“Now, New York area viewers may not see their Yankees in the American League playoffs, or the New York Giants play regular season games, if Cablevision doesn’t reach agreements with three New York channels by tomorrow (Oct. 15). The disputes are with WNYW (Channel 5) and WWOR (Channel 9). In addition, Philadelphia viewers may not see the Phillies in the National League Championship series due to a dispute between Cablevision and Fox affiliate, WTXF (Channel 29).
“At a minimum, we would like the programming to remain on the air while the parties continue to negotiate and consider the use of arbitration.
“This state of affairs is getting tiresome as these disputes grow more frequent. It is because of situations like this that Public Knowledge joined 13 other parties in March to ask the FCC to consider changing the rules governing the terms and conditions under which broadcast stations are carried on cable networks. The petition proposes some rule changes, including allowing TV channels to remain on the air during a broadcaster-cable dispute, and banning the tying of carriage of broadcast channels to other programming, including Web-based programming. It also proposes arbitration to resolve disputes.
“In addition, I testified before the House Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee in February, 2009, asking for a complete overhaul of the retransmission consent mechanism, and suggested some specific items, transparency for all retransmission consent contracts, and a requirement that retransmission consent licenses be on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
“It’s time for consumer welfare to be taken seriously by Federal regulators, legislators and the industry.”
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