The FCC released its Public Notice setting out the agenda for its next meeting to be held on December 20. Included on the agenda is a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on video franchising reform. According to press reports, the FCC’s consideration may include timelines requiring local franchise authorities to act quickly on requests for new franchises, limits on franchise fees and build-out requirements, and perhaps some requirements that cable programming be made available to new franchisees. If adopted, these rules may hasten the introduction of cable television-like services by the telephone companies.
TV broadcasters are very anxiously watching this proceeding, as well as similar reform measures proceeding in many states and on Capitol Hill, as many believe that the existence of competing multichannel video providers give broadcasters more leverage in retransmission consent agreement negotiations. Already, where broadcasters have tried to hold out for some consideration in retransmission negotiations, the existence of DirecTV and the Dish Network have often become crucial places to direct viewers for their network TV service if that service is taken off a cable system when retransmission consent negotiations break down. Having more multi-channel video competitors as outlets for its programming may make a television station more bold in holding out in cable retransmission consent negotiations. More competitors may also make cable systems more reluctant to take the chance of losing a network affiliate because the system refuses to pay consideration in return for retransmission consent. Thus, the FCC’s actions this coming week, while having nothing to do directly with television stations, may nevertheless be very important to their future.