TV News Check: ACA Asks FCC To End Retrans ‘Price Fixing’

TVNewsCheck

May 31, 2011

In what it calls an effort to “inject free-market competition into retransmission consent,” the American Cable Association is urging the FCC to adopt rules that would ban separately owned broadcasters from bargaining “as a collusive unit within the same market and outlaw broadcast networks and TV stations from interfering with cable operators’ rights to carry distant network signals that customers have historically received and valued.”

In comments filed with the FCC claiming an urgent need for retransmission consent reform, ACA requested agency action this year in time for new rules to apply to thousands of retrans agreements set to expire on Dec. 31.

ACA’s comments detailed 36 instances of such coordinated negotiations — including the names of the broadcasters involved and the markets where such coordination is occurring — that ACA members have experienced in just the last three years.

“Broadcasters said ACA would find no actual occurrences of coordinated negotiations, and ACA responded by laying the facts on the table for the FCC to review,” ACA President-CEO Matthew M. Polka said.  “The question of whether broadcasters are colluding is no longer in doubt.  We have the proof, and now the FCC does as well.

“Everything ACA has proposed responds to systemic injurious practices by broadcasters that occur during retransmission consent negotiations, meriting a firm regulatory response to protect the public interest.  Behavior we’re seeing from broadcasters, undeniably motivated by greed, is inconsistent with a competitive marketplace and long-established policy of Congress and the FCC,” Polka added.

ACA pressed the FCC to stipulate that independently owned TV stations that engage in coordinated bargaining are per se violations of their legal obligation to bargain in good faith.

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TV News Check: ACA Asks FCC To End Retrans ‘Price Fixing’

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