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ACA urges FCC to cease broadcaster abuse regarding retrans

Mon, 10/20/2008 - 8:30am
Traci Patterson

In filings with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week, the American Cable Association (ACA) once again asked the Commission to cease the market abuse and abusive behavior by broadcasters regarding retransmission consent.

The filings were made on behalf of Trust Cable TV (available here) and Baja Broadband Operating Co. (available here) and highlight the urgent need for the Commission to grant Requests of Stay while retransmission consent complaints are pending, the ACA said.

The filings also urge the FCC to “enforce its objective standards of good faith to ensure that small cable operators and their customers are not harmed by broadcasters who benefit from favorable federal rules and regulations,” according to the ACA.

“This is an important time for not only small cable operators, but operators of every size, and the tens of millions of households that rely on them for service,” said ACA CEO and President Matthew Polka. “For far too long, broadcasters have abused their market power and employed abusive negotiating tactics to extract unreasonable and unwarranted retransmission fees, terms and conditions from operators and subscribers. These bad faith bargaining tactics are magnified further by the inability of cable operators to bring a complaint to the Commission without sacrificing that channel at the detriment of their subscribers. There must be a mechanism in place that enables operators to continue carriage while complaints are pending; it is an essential first step to bring some balance back to the retransmission market.”

The ACA said that it has asked the FCC for the following specifics:

  • Permit cable operators to carry a broadcast station during a pending complaint.
  • Rule that a broadcaster can expressly assent to retransmission consent through silence.
  • Enforce its objective standards of good faith, and rule on behalf of operators who lodge complaints.

Trust Cable TV filed a complaint against broadcasters WGMB and WVLA for their abusive negotiations tactics in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The operator requested an emergency stay, preventing the broadcast station owners from pulling its signals until Trust can fully recover from the storm and the proceeding concludes. 

Baja Broadband’s complaint against El Paso station KTSM details take-it-or-leave-it refusals to negotiate and other abuses of market power. The operator also requested the Commission grant a stay preventing the broadcasters from pulling their signals during the pendency of the complaints, the ACA said.

Retransmission consent agreements have been a sore spot for both cable operators and broadcasters over the past few years. Last year Cox Communications and Sinclair Broadcast Group were at odds before they reached a four-year retransmission consent agreement.

On Oct. 3, Time Warner Cable subscribers that are served by 12 stations were in the dark after the nation’s second-largest cable operator wasn’t able to come to terms on retransmission fees with Lin TV Corp. (story here). Lin TV pulled the plug at midnight after the two parties weren’t able to strike a retransmission consent agreement.

The American Cable Association has been hard at work lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission in regards to retransmission agreements being unfair for small and medium-sized cable operators.

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• ACA urges FCC to cease broadcaster abuse regarding retrans

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• Broadband Briefs for 10/20/08

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