If ads warning that the Fox TV channel could get yanked from service made you anxious, annoyed or even thrilled, the Federal Communications Commission wants to hear from you.
The agency, which regulates the cable and satellite TV industry, began accepting anyone’s comment Friday on what they think about retransmission fees. Such fees are what made Time Warner Cable and Fox launch public campaigns over the holidays. Fox wanted Time Warner to pay a fee for every cable customer who had access to Fox.
This is your chance to let the government know how the fees affect customers: They make our prices go up every year. While you’re at it, you may want to offer your thoughts on paying for TV channels a la carte, or pay for only the ones you want.
Orange County customers ultimately didn’t see any shows pulled as the two sides resolved their differences — in private. But not so lucky were Cablevision customers on the East Coast who already this year lost access (temporarily) to Food Networks and ABC.
Time Warner — joined by Dish Network, DirecTV, Cablevision and 11 others — led the way last week when it told the FCC the method for negotiating a fair price for TV channels needed an update. It told the FCC:
Consumers are increasingly being put in the middle of disputes between programmers and distributors, including recurring threats of going dark, high-stakes public negotiations, and, in the case of ABC’s recent withdrawal of programming from three million Cablevision subscribers, highly disruptive blackouts. … The 14 petitioners asked the FCC to implement new dispute resolution mechanisms –such as compulsory arbitration or an expert tribunal — and require continued carriage of broadcast signals during negotiations or disputes, to help ensure uninterrupted programming for consumers. The petitioners implore the FCC to act expeditiously to help prevent further consumer harm.
The FCC is accepting public comments through May 4. Anyone can file a comment. Here’s how to do it:
Online: Go to the Federal electronic comment page (link: bit.ly/b87tac) or the Federal eRulemaking Portal (link: regulations.gov). You’ll need to include a mailing address, the docket number (MB Docket No. 10-71) and e-mail address.
Snail mail: You must send the original comment plus four copies addressed to Commission’s Secretary, Marlene H. Dortch, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission. They can be delivered in the following methods (sounds complicated!):
Previously on TV fees: