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A group of subscription television providers — both cable and satellite – have petitioned the FCC for some protection against networks pulling the plug on their program as part of licensing negotiations. The most recent round of brinkmanship was between Cablevision and Disney leading up to the Academy Awards coverage, but we’ve also seen other cases where college football and the SuperBowl have been held hostage to get the subscription services to pony up more per viewer.

Naturally, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) reportedly does not see that there’s a problem here. All their members want is fair compensation for the content they provide, and if they don’t get paid enough, they shouldn’t have to provide it.

It is interesting to note that one giant is apparently keeping mum on the subject: Comcast. Perhaps its strategy is affected by the fact that it may be both a subscription service and a content provider once it completes its takeover of NBC.

The issue gets pretty complex quickly. How do you balance the “rights” of the subscribers to content that they think they’ve paid for, with the rights of the networks to not be forced to distribute their content at a price that they deem is not acceptable? Well, the FCC is not going to try to sort this one out in a vacuum, and they’re soliciting public input. You have until May 4, 2010 to weigh in with your opinions on the subject. You can post your comments online at www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/; reference your comments to Docket No. 10-71. You can also file comments by email or on paper. The FCC announcement contains all the details.

Posted by Alfred Poor, March 29, 2010 6:00 AM

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About Alfred Poor

Alfred Poor is a well-known display industry expert, who writes the daily HDTV Almanac. He wrote for PC Magazine for more than 20 years, and now is focusing on the home entertainment and home networking markets.