/// Bill Seeks to Grant FCC Authority to Stop Blackouts

September 9, 2013  |  Media Week

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House subcommittee on communications and technology, just made Wednesday's upcoming hearing interesting by publishing a discussion draft of a bill intended to eliminate TV blackouts caused by retransmission consent disputes. The bill, nicknamed the Video CHOICE Act (for Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) would give the Federal Communications Commission explicit authority to intervene in carriage disputes by granting interim carriage of a TV broadcast station during a negotiation impasse. It's no surprise that Eshoo introduced the bill Monday, a week after CBS and Time Warner Cable ended a 32-day negotiation standoff that left more than 3 million consumers without CBS stations in markets such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. During the blackout Eshoo said she would “carefully examine whether changes to current law are needed to adequately protect consumers and prevent the reoccurrence of blackouts.” The goal of the discussion draft is to encourage other lawmakers to start collaborating on the draft, said an Eshoo staffer. Though there are no cosponsors for the bill now because it hasn't been formally introduced, the hope is that Wednesday's hearings will generate some interest. Titled “innovation versus regulation in the video marketplace,” Wednesday's hearing was already destined to have at least some discussion of retransmission consent, thanks to scheduled testimony from retrans reform advocate Stanton Dodge, Dish Network's evp and general counsel. Dodge and other reform advocates have been laser-focused on piggybacking on the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) as an opportunity to call for more reform.

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