On October 28, the NYC Television Week’s three-day conference opened at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel with two key panelists: Michael Powell, president of the U.S.’s National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and Gordon H. Smith, president of the U.S.’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Powell is a former chairman of the U.S. communications regulator, FCC, while Smith is a former U.S. senator. Both NCTA and NAB are based in Washington, D.C.
With those two organizations on the same podium, the resulting formula was a given: Cable+broadcast=retrans. Indeed, the discussion opened with the retransmission fees that cable operators now have to pay broadcasters (both networks and local stations).
Powell pointed to a “pressure on the relationship,” going from “paying nothing to paying a lot.” On his part, Smith said that broadcast “has a symbiotic relationship with cable” and that “we don’t like service interruptions.”
Then, unsurprisingly, both touched on Aereo, a service that allows subscribers to view live over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices, with Smith insisting that it’s a copyright issue (“If you take someone else’s content and you sell it, you violate copyright laws”).
On his part, Powell understandably mitigated the issue, calling it “a continuing struggle in the digital age,” perhaps hoping that by allowing it, the courts will create a precedent that could also benefit cable operators over the retrans fees. However, Smith clearly indicated that strengthening copyright protection is something that NAB will be pushing for both in courts of law and at the FCC level, and even in Congress.