WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- In an appearance before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Tom Rutledge, Chief Operating Officer of Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) supported reform of the nation's retransmission consent laws and urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to exercise its statutory authority to protect consumers from programming blackouts.
Testifying before the Committee's Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee at a hearing on Television Viewers, Retransmission Consent and the Public Interest, Mr. Rutledge praised the leadership of Subcommittee Chairman Sen. John Kerry in advancing the goal of retransmission consent reform and standing up for consumers.
Mr. Rutledge noted in his testimony:
"Just last month, Fox pulled its network programming from three million New York-area households for 15 days, blacking out Major League Baseball playoffs, NFL football and the World Series. The rules that allowed this blackout were created by Congress and administered by the FCC, but the FCC claimed it had no power to restore the programming."
"Any claim that broadcasters have not been paid for their broadcast channels is false. Broadcasters have used existing rules to force the other cable networks they now own onto cable and satellite systems – charging billions of dollars for these cable networks in return for permission to carry their broadcast stations. Through these government-blessed tying arrangements, broadcaster-owned and -affiliated cable channels have grown from just 8 in 1993 to more than 90 channels today. In fact, the driving force behind the increase in cable rates is the ability of broadcasters to demand we take and pay for these 90 channels by tying them to retransmission consent of their broadcast stations."
"Government laws created the problem, and so only the government – the FCC or Congress – can fix it. We have proposed to the FCC a few modest changes that it can begin implementing now to take consumers out of the middle: First, Forbid tying – limit retransmission consent agreements to the carriage of broadcast channels so that the actual cost of the broadcast station is clear; Second, Require transparency – there is no reason why the cost of carrying broadcast networks needs to be secret. Retransmission fees should be public; and Third, Forbid discrimination – broadcasters may set the price of carriage but they should not discriminate among cable and satellite providers."
"In conclusion, if this Committee wants retransmission consent negotiations to occur in a truly free market, we would welcome that. This would mean having the government eliminate all the unfair advantages broadcasters enjoy under current law. Until that day, the FCC should exercise its authority to ensure that millions of consumers never again find themselves with the World Series blacked out."
Cablevision Systems Corporation is one of the nation's leading telecommunications, media and entertainment companies. In addition to its Optimum-branded cable, Internet, and voice offerings, the company owns and operates News 12 Networks, MSG Varsity and Newsday Media Group. Cablevision's assets also include Rainbow Media Holdings LLC and its programming and entertainment businesses, AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, WE tv and IFC Entertainment, as well as Clearview Cinemas. Additional information about Cablevision is available on the Web at www.cablevision.com.
SOURCE Cablevision Systems Corp.