Sen. Jay Rockefeller has asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact of TV station shared services agreements (SSAs) on consumers.
The request is a response to complaints by smaller cable operators who charge that local broadcasters frequently collude in order to keep retransmission fees artificially high – costs that get passed on to subscribers.
Broadcasters, meanwhile, believe they have long been short-changed on retransmission fees.
The American Cable Association (ACA) has compiled evidence of 48 instances of collusion among broadcasters, but thus far had been frustrated in getting policy makers to address the issue directly.
ACA president and CEO Matthew Polka said, “ACA welcomes a report that examines the widespread and increasing practice of separately owned broadcasters on the local level coordinating their sale of retransmission consent. This behavior increases broadcasters' bargaining power over ACA Members in their negotiations and drives up the cost of carriage fees for millions of consumers.”
The American Television Alliance (ATVA) also commended Rockefeller for the request, issuing a statement that said, “These types of arrangements may lead to more retransmission consent disputes and cause consumers more harm when multiple broadcast stations are pulled during such disputes. Further, these arrangements may cost consumers more money in the end.: