WASHINGTON, December 22, 2009 - The annual dance between broadcasters and cable providers gained a new player on Tuesday as Sen John Kerry, D-Mass., sent a letter to executives at Fox and Time Warner Cable urging the companies to resolve their respective issues over retransmission consent between now and December 31, when the current agreement expires.
Retransmission consent is the process by which broadcasters charge cable providers a fee to deliver their programming to cable television subscribers.
Without a renewed agreement between Time Warner and Fox, millions of Americans will be left without popular sports and entertainment programming during the first days of the new year.
"I have sought to place the interests of consumers at the center of our work," Kerry wrote. "If both parties conclude that the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to have screens go dark for consumers, then they will have neglected the core interests of the millions of households that subscribe to Time Warner Cable in affected markets."
Kerry noted that all FCC licensees are obligated to serve the public interest under the Communications Act. "I hope and expect that you will resolve this matter consistent with those obligations," he noted.
Consumer advocacy group Free Press praised Kerry for speaking out against exorbitant retransmission fees: "Senator Kerry is right to blow the whistle on the spat between Fox and Time Warner," said policy director Ben Scott.
"[C]onsumers shouldn’t have to cope with suddenly losing TV service of local sports programming on New Year’s Day because two corporate boardrooms decided to butt heads. These shenanigans expose serious hypocrisy in the industry" "We hope Senator Kerry’s intervention will serve as a reality check," Scott said.