Last month we reported on the Commission’s decision to prohibit joint retransmission consent negotiations between two non-commonly owned “Top Four” stations in the same market. The Report and Order component of that decision has now been published in the Federal Register. That establishes the effective date for the prohibition: June 18, 2014. Any TV licensees preferring some kind of joint retrans negotiations should thus be sure to wrap them up before then – but it’s probably best not to get your hopes up on that score, since the folks on the other side of the table will also be aware of the approaching effective date and may therefore not be especially motivated to close a deal before then.
The Federal Register publication also starts the countdown for (1) petitions for reconsideration asking the Commission to re-think things and (2) petitions for review asking a Federal appeals court to reverse the Commission. Recon petitions are due at the Commission no later than June 18, 2014. Petitions for review are due by July 18.
Note that this is the type of agency decision that may be appealed to most any Circuit – that means, in turn, that it’s at least possible that we may all be taking another trip to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). The Commission ended up there back in 2011, when multiple appellants took the FCC’s first net neutrality decision to court. It’s not clear whether anyone contemplating an appeal of the retrans consent negotiation limits may believe that one circuit is preferable to any other, so we won’t know for some time whether there’s going to be a judicial lottery to pick a circuit this time around. If you’re contemplating an appeal and you do happen to have a preferred circuit, you may want to brush up on what you’ll have to do to insure that your circuit of choice makes it into the drum from which the lucky circuit will be drawn (assuming, of course, that multiple petitions are filed with different circuits). The FCC has issued a handy notice on the steps to take.