NONDISCRIMINATORY RETRANSMISSION CONSENT IN H.R. 1554
(Extensions of Remarks - November 19, 1999)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E2487]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


         NONDISCRIMINATORY RETRANSMISSION CONSENT IN H.R. 1554

                                 ______
                                 

                        HON. W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN

                              of louisiana

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, November 18, 1999

  Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, as a conferee appointed to H.R. 1554, and as 
a proponent of competition, I deliberated long and hard to promote 
increased consumer choice in the video marketplace by strengthening the 
competitive position of satellite carriers as they go head to head with 
incumbent cable operators; however, they are not the only competitors 
in the evolving video marketplace.
  Since enactment of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, cable over-
builders have acquired franchises all across the country and have begun 
to operate traditional wireline systems. In addition to these familiar 
distribution systems, several new digital wireless cable systems, which 
use microwave frequencies to transmit programming, also offer consumers 
a competitive alternative.
  Although incumbent cable systems still dominate the video 
distribution market, satellite carriers continue to gain market share 
and, with the advent of local into local, will see even greater 
consumer interest in their product.
  Unfortunately, the newer entrants--the over builders and the digital 
wireless providers--still face some pretty stiff obstacles in their 
efforts to penetrate this market. The single most significant hurdle 
they face is access to popular programming at fair prices. This issue 
has long-term significance for video competition and my subcommittee 
will continue to study this important problem. However, in the short-
term, these new competitors are running into serious retransmission 
consent problems that prevent them from expanding as fast as they would 
like and that unnecessarily deprive consumers of an alternative choice.
  When attempting to renegotiate retransmission consent contracts, 
these new competitors are told they must take other programming 
services they do not want. Too frequently, they are told they must 
purchase a ``bundle'' of programming that includes the broadcast signal 
they want, but also includes programming in which the broadcaster or 
his affiliated network has a financial interest. As you might expect, 
``bundles'' of programming cost a lot more than a single broadcast 
signal, and they take up valuable channel space that the new entrants 
would prefer to use for other programming--programming they choose to 
carry, not programming they are forced to carry.
  The bottom line is that these ``tying'' arrangements are not 
optional, they are forced on these new entrants as the quid pro quo for 
obtaining retransmission consent; impose higher programming costs on 
new entrants that put them at a competitive disadvantage vis a vis 
established players in the market; and take up valuable channel space 
which, in the case of wireless operators, is limited to the spectrum 
space available.
  If our efforts to increase consumer choice are to succeed, we must go 
beyond what we have been able to accomplish in H.R. 1554.
  I ask my colleagues to join me in a pledge to reopen the debate about 
nondiscriminatory retransmission consent and agree to study this matter 
further to see what additional steps we can take to strengthen the 
competitive position of all new entrants into the video marketplace. If 
we succeed, consumers will enjoy lower prices, better service quality 
and more choice.

                          ____________________