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Retrans Disputes and Channel Change Notices

DEAR ACA: My retransmission consent agreements expire on December 31, 2008, and I'm still negotiating with my broadcasters, but I may have to drop stations. Don't I have to give my customer 30-days notice before I can drop any signals? -- Robert Barnes, Valley Cable TV

DEAR MR. BARNES: The key FCC regulation regarding notice to customers regarding channel changes states that customers must be notified of any changes in rates, programming services or channel positions as soon as possible in writing. Notice must be given to subscribers a minimum of thirty (30) days in advance of such changes if the change is within the control of the cable operator.

In cases where a broadcaster terminates retransmission consent rights on 12/31, under the law, a cable operator must cease carriage. Failure to do so exposes the cable operator to FCC complaints and fines and copyright infringement ligitation.

If you are forced to pull a signal at year end and have not given subscribers a 30-day notice, the channel deletion should be considered "beyond the control of the cable operator." If that's the case, you should notify subscribers as soon as possible with the reason for the change.

ACA urges every ACA member to consult with appropriate legal counsel before making any decisions regarding retransmission consent agreements or notice to subscribers, and nothing in this answer is intended to be considered as legal advice. This answer is provided merely as an informational service to ACA members.

If you have any questions about the association's activity, federal rules and regulations, politics, grassroots, media, or other relevant topic, here's your chance to have them answered. Ask ACA today.

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