Experts on Hill Panel: Retransmission Consent and Other Regulations Are Outdated

WASHINGTON DC  February 28, 2012 – In an era when viewers can watch television on their laptops, tablets, or smart phones, government regulations are behind the times and overprotecting broadcasting, the “killer app of 1952.” These ideas were discussed yesterday at ATVA’s expert panel, “Television in the 21st Century.” The event, held on the Hill, drew an over-capacity crowd of Congressional and FCC staffers, representatives from various think tanks and telecommunications companies, and members of the media. The panel featured three professors, all authors of recent papers on the evolving state of broadcast television and governing policies.

Thomas Hazlett, Professor of Law and Economics at George Mason University and former Chief Economist at the FCC, discussed his paper “If a TV Station Broadcasts in the Forest…” Hazlett described current polices as a “regulatory regime,” protecting only one distribution platform while impeding innovation and blocking the emergence of alternative distribution systems.

Philip Napoli, Professor and Area Chair at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business, discussed his research on retransmission consent fees, highlighting the growing deviation from the original Congressional intent of retransmission regulations to preserve and promote local news content. Napoli compared decreased numbers of local news minutes, orientation, and resources to the skyrocketing revenue received from growing retransmission fees, up from $214 million in 2006 to a projected $1.3 billion in 2011.

Also discussing the effect of policy on localism was Danilo Yanich, Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and author of “Local TV News and Service Agreements: A Critical Look.” Yanich questioned whether the increasingly large number of shared service agreements between broadcast networks was in fact meeting the public interest needs.

All of the experts agreed that current policies have created a complete “logjam” within the industry, as described by a member of the audience during the Q & A.   Recognizing that innovations and consumer demand are quickly outgrowing current policies, there appeared to be a consensus in the room that action must be taken.

To read the executive summaries of each panelists’ papers, click here.