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FCC Chair Goes to Bat for Spectrum Auctions

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
4/13/2011
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In our hump-day cable roundup, broadcasters still aren't ready to heed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's call to auction off valuable spectrum in the name of mobile broadband, an agency commissioner offers support to independent MSOs, and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) gets a dubious honor.

  • At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warned that the cost of delaying the auction of wireless spectrum "would be severe." Local broadcasters, however, are resisting calls to "voluntarily" return spectrum that could be used for new mobile broadband services. (See FCC to Auction TV Spectrum.)

  • Fox Broadcasting Co. is refusing to back down from demands that local TV station affiliates give it a cut of the retransmission-consent fees they're collecting from local cable operators. Fox reportedly expressed its position during a contentious three-hour meeting held at at the NAB confab.

  • FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn told American Cable Association (ACA) Summit attendees Tuesday that she's she's ready to step in and protect consumers if there's evidence that the retrans consent market isn't working. "I fully understand the intent of the retrans rules, and that market forces should be allowed to work. But I am on the lookout for the consumers in this country, and if the market isn't working, we need to consider taking appropriate steps," she said during the keynote to the nation's independent cable operators. (See FCC Reexamines Retrans Rules.)

  • Bloomberg says Univision is talking with pay-TV providers about launching three new channels: a network dedicated to steamy telenovelas, a sports network and a 24-hour news network.

  • For those who are still keeping score: Defending "Golden Poo" champ Comcast will face off against BP in the Final Four of The Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" tourney after getting past AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). On the other half of the bracket, Bank of America takes on Ticketmaster.

  • Cox Communications Inc. subscribers in Louisiana who prefer to punch channel numbers into their remotes rather than scroll through an interactive program guide now have to remember four-digit channel numbers, after it moved all HD programming from the 700s to the 1000s.

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced an Internet privacy bill Tuesday that could restrict sites such as Facebook from delivering targeted ads using data collected from users -- including email addresses and credit card numbers -- unless consumers first opt in. The bill also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to impose fines up to $3 million for violations.

  • UPC Nederland will launch CI Plus -- removable security modules that are similar to the U.S. CableCARD -- on April 26. The operator has already certified TV sets from LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), Royal Philips Electronics N.V. (NYSE: PHG; Amsterdam: PHI) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), to be followed by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), according to Broadband TV News.

    — Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable, and Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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