Oh, the drama: Cable Act hearing set as TV disputes rise

Video entertainment in the age of Netflix et al is full of drama, and today a Senate committee is scheduled to take up the 20-year-old Cable Act. The law, among other things, includes rules related to “retransmission,” or the payment system that gives cable and satellite providers rights to carry TV networks’ programming. The discussion — reportedly the second online-video-related hearing by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the past few months — takes place amid plenty of examples of retransmission battles.

“Playing games of chicken during college bowl games, the World Series or the Oscars just seems like it’s the new norm,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said, according to Politico.

For example, a nine-day blackout of Viacom channels on DirecTV ended Friday after the two sides reached a new contract agreement. One of the sticking points, reports the New York Times, was the online distribution of Viacom shows. DirecTV offers its subscribers online access to some channels’ content through a sign-in system. Free online access to Viacom shows — which include “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Jersey Shore” — is likely to become more restricted under the new contract, the NYT says. In another example, fans of many New York sports teams who also were Time Warner subscribers were unable to watch them on TV for seven weeks earlier this year because of a dispute between that cable company and MSG.

The fights — and blackouts — are likely to continue, with the Wall Street Journal pointing out that Fox and CBS are set to renegotiate their contracts soon.

But the show must go on without government regulation, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., told Politico: “We should remove unnecessary government interference from a mature and increasingly competitive video marketplace.”

C-SPAN will carry the hearing, which starts at 2:30 p.m. EST, today.




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  • Alles

    No word regarding the Dish/AMC brouhaha? No Walking Dead, No Breaking Bad. Love their service and their people but hate the new deal.

  • Bryan

    Given that “corporation” is an amoral abstraction designed for the sole purpose of making profit, an unregulated corporation is no more desirable than an uncontrolled chainsaw.

    The notion that government regulation is de facto “interference” is a sure sign of a Congressman who’s on a corporate payroll. Any failure of government to stringently regulate corporations in the best interest of all citizens will result in a “might equals right” plutocracy where virtually everything is owned by a tiny group of pathological hoarders.

    Which is to say… America as it is today.

  • curmudgeon2000

    The Senator from the teabagger party conveniently overlooks the
    fact that electromagnetic spectrum, space on poles and in
    underground cable runs, and geostationary orbit slots are all
    essentially bounded resources that are allocated by various
    government bodies. It is both necessary and proper that the
    business monopolies that naturally arise from these allocations
    be regulated by the government to protect the interest of its