FCC Commissioner: Retrans Fights Driven by 'Huge Monied Interests'

Copps wants to take hard look at Fox-Cablevision dispute to protect consumers

NEW YORK -- FCC commissioner Michael Copps on Wednesday called on the government agency to take a hard look at its options in the Cablevision Systems-News Corp./Fox carriage fee stalemate, arguing that consumers are not protected and that big media companies too often focus on their own profits over collateral damage to regular people who must endure program blackouts.

"In too many instances, retransmission consent has degenerated into a fight between huge monied interests to see who can milk who the most - and consumers are left holding an empty pail," he said in a statement. "What we are dealing with here is a fast-changing media landscape with the big players maneuvering to see how they can create new business models that will give them the upper hand over their rivals going forward."
Copps said that the FCC's role has been limited, "partly due to the statute under which we operate, which generally confines our role to encouraging 'good faith' negotiations between the private parties."

He acknowledged that the commission has interpreted its mandate "very cautiously" before adding: "But the FCC is a consumer protection agency and, if the Fox-Cablevision dispute proves anything, it is that consumers are clearly not being protected. I believe the Commission should take a very serious look at whether 'good faith' negotiations are indeed occurring."

Critics have argued that the FCC has been too tame in its approach to the current dispute. Senator John Kerry on Tuesday presented a draft bill for reforming the FCC's role in retrans disputes before FCC chair Julius Genachowski gave Fox and Cablevision a mouthful.