Federal regulators are seeking public comment on a petition by cable, satellite and phone companies that want more clout in negotiations with TV broadcasters over programming.
Friday's move by the Federal Communications Commission follows a series of disputes over the fees that cable companies pay broadcasters to transmit their signals. Broadcasters have begun demanding more for those signals as advertising revenue has weakened in recent years.
The most recent breakdown in negotiations caused Cablevision subscribers to miss the first 15 minutes of the Oscars when the ABC station in New York pulled its signal from the cable system. Other standoffs have pitted Time Warner Cable against News Corp.'s Fox stations, and Mediacom Communications Corp. against Sinclair Broadcasting Group.
A coalition of pay-TV providers — including Cablevision Systems Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., DirecTV Inc., Dish Network Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. — have seized on these incidents to ask the FCC to rewrite the rules governing so-called "retransmission consent" negotiations. They want the agency to prohibit broadcasters from interrupting signals during negotiations or before popular events, and to mandate binding arbitration in disputes.
Public comments on their petition must be filed with the FCC either electronically or by mail by May 4. It's too early to know whether the petition could result in new rules from the agency or when such rules could be adopted.
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