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Another small op files complaint with FCC regarding retrans

Wed, 10/29/2008 - 8:10am
Traci Patterson

Another small cable operator has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, citing “abusive retransmission consent negotiating tactics and violations of the Commission’s good faith rules by broadcasters,” according to the American Cable Association (ACA).

In a 31-page complaint filed on Oct. 24, the Lafayette Utility System (LUS) detailed bundling requirements, excessive fee demands and repeated “take-it-or-leave-it” offers by ComCorp, White Knight Broadcasting and their representative. 

“Market abuse and abusive negotiating tactics on the part of broadcasters to extort higher fees and forced carriage of undesired channels by cable operators of every size is the worst-kept secret in the industry,” said ACA CEO and President Matthew Polka. “All year long, the programmers and broadcasters have claimed that the marketplace works, and operators can purchase programming on a standalone basis; however, the evidence proving otherwise keeps mounting at the FCC.

“The Commission could not ask for more clear evidence that corrective measures must be taken as part of the wholesale programming rulemaking. LUS is only the latest in an increasing number of operators who, quite simply, cannot deal in this increasingly abusive climate and have turned to the FCC for help. We have every confidence that under the Chairman’s leadership, they will get it.”

In filings with the FCC in mid-October, the 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 highlighted the urgent need for the Commission to grant Requests of Stay while retransmission consent complaints are pending.

The filings also urged 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.

On September 22, Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative filed a complaint against Granite Broadcasting stations KRII and KBJR, and against Malara Broadcasting station KDLH, detailing these stations’ violations of the good faith rules by engaging in unilateral offers and engaging in other abusive negotiating tactics.

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.

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 regard to retransmission agreements being unfair for small and medium-size cable operators.

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• Qwest's Q3 net income drops 93% year-over-year

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• Another small op files complaint with FCC regarding retrans

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