Spurred by a recent spike in retransmission consent disputes that culminated with a two-week shutdown of Fox broadcast network service to Cablevision customers during the baseball World Series, the FCC launched rulemaking proceedings yesterday to examine rule changes that might avert such shutdowns in the future. In voting unanimously to adopt the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the FCC’s commissioners acknowledged that the current scope of their authority in bringing resolution to such disputes and protecting affected multichannel video program distribution (MVPD) customers is limited. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proclaimed that the FCC needs to be more involved in the program carriage process because “retransmission consent negotiations have become more contentious . . . and consumers have gotten caught in the middle.” Genachowski admitted yesterday that existing law “doesn’t give the Commission the authority to order interim carriage of broadcast programming” as parties continue to negotiate new carriage terms after contract expiration. As such, the NPRM seeks input on how existing FCC rules that require MVPDs and broadcasters to negotiate carriage terms in “good faith” can be strengthened. Among other things, the NPRM seeks comment on proposed rules that would require cable MVPDs to notify their subscribers of a potential signal shutdown within 30 days of contract expiration if a new agreement is not in place to extend or modify existing contract terms. The NPRM also asks whether “it should be a per se violation [of the good faith rules] for a negotiating entity to refuse to put forth bona fide proposals” within 30 days of contract expiration or “to refuse to agree to non-binding mediation when the parties reach an impasse.” In addition to soliciting input on the application of any 30-day notice requirement to non-cable MVPDs and broadcasters, the NPRM also asks “how the Commission can more effectively evaluate complaints that do not allege per se violations but involve behavior calculated to threaten disruption of consumer access as a negotiating tactic.” As Commissioner Mignon Clyburn explained that “we hope to give companies a clearer perspective on how to operate and negotiate in good faith,” Commissioner Robert McDowell warned broadcasters and MVPDs not to “use the mere existence of this [NPRM] as an excuse to stop negotiating and reaching deals.”