ATVA Puts Down Marker Against Potential Breach of Local Station Ownership Limits by Sinclair-Tribune Merger

Warns That Ownership of Multiple Stations in Top 4 Markets Would Stick Consumers with Higher Fees and More Blackouts

 Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, today filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing its concern that Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune would give Sinclair ownership of multiple top-four affiliates in numerous markets, in violation of the FCC’s local ownership rules.  ATVA supports adherence to the FCC’s media ownership rules and agrees with Sinclair that the Commission cannot grant its merger application at this time with respect to the duopolies created in markets like Seattle, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City.

“Retrans fees have risen by double digits year-over-year in each of the past four years, making retrans fees the fastest rising part of pay-TV customers’ bills.  Giving Sinclair a pass on local ownership limits in places like Seattle, St. Louis and Oklahoma City would all but guarantee more blackouts and higher prices for consumers in those markets,” said Trent Duffy, a spokesman for the coalition.”

Sinclair has indicated that it “may file amendments” to their merger application should the Commission relax local ownership rules.  In its filing, ATVA told the FCC that it would object to any subsequent attempts by Sinclair to authorize new ‘top-four duopolies’ unless the Commission also takes steps to limit the unreasonable pricing power that such duopolies would create.

ATVA’s filing summarized the concerns with duopolies: “Three years ago, the Commission voted unanimously to prohibit a single entity from negotiating on behalf of two top-four stations in a market because it harms competition and gives that broadcaster pricing power in retransmission consent negotiations.  All five Commissioners agreed this was sound policy because, when a single entity negotiates retransmission consent for two top-four stations, it can command fees between 20 and 43 percent higher than can a single top-four station.”

Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Tribune Media are responsible for 139 blackouts combined since 2012, more blackouts than any single broadcaster in that timeframe.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.