Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry sent a letter to the FCC Tuesday with draft language for a bill mandating a federal role in negotiations over fees paid by cable companies for broadcasters' programming.
The draft legislation from Kerry, D-Mass., aims "to protect consumers during disputes between broadcasters and cable providers that sometimes lead to televisions going dark and often threaten to disrupt service."
Such a disruption in service is exactly what happened to about 3 million Cablevision subscribers in the New York area after Fox and Cablevision failed to reach an agreement over carriage fees last Friday.
"This system today isn't working for anyone," Kerry said. "It's not our job to take sides, but it is our responsibility to help find a better way forward."
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Tuesday also voiced frustration with the Cablevision-Fox dispute. "I am deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table," he said in a statement. "The time for petty gamesmanship is over."
Genachowski said he called the CEOs of both Cablevision and Fox to stress the need for them to reach a deal, adding they "share responsibility" for the disruption to consumers caused by the blackout. He also said the FCC would "continue to scrutinize their actions very closely."