ACA: Sinclair blackout in Toledo shows broken retrans model

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ACA / American Cable AssociationAmerican Cable Association CEO Matthew Polka issued a statement on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s decision Sunday night to black out NBC affiliate WNWO, Channel 24, on Buckeye CableSystem in the Toledo, Ohio:


“The indifference of broadcasters, like Sinclair, toward blacking out cable customers, especially so close to the holiday season, in order to extract higher fees from cable operators and their customers, is nothing short of Grinch-like.  In our view, broadcasters like Sinclair who would leave millions of consumers in the dark without notice are media malefactors who make a mockery of their legal obligation to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity.  You’re a mean one, Mr. Broadcaster.

ACA is pleased that some Capitol Hill lawmakers find Sinclair and other broadcasters’ conduct intolerable.  For example, last week Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, both California Democrats, introduced a bill that would provide the FCC with unmistakable authority to stop Sinclair’s signal blackout against Buckeye.

In another coup for consumers, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced a bill that would eliminate many of the special retransmission consent-related protections that Congress gave the broadcasters decades ago and that give them an advantage in negotiations with cable operators.  In particular, both bills would no longer legally require cable operators to distribute payment-demanding TV stations to all customers as a precondition to their gaining access to other programming on the cable system.  When consumers have more opportunities to opt out of high-priced programming, they are the winners.

Given Sinclair’s blackout of Buckeye, the Eshoo-Lofgren and Scalise-Gardner bills have arrived at the perfect moment and both deserve attention by Congress because consumers have lost all patience with broadcasters that engage in signal blackmail in order to reap huge fee increases from Buckeye and other small cable operators.  When consumers learn these lawmakers are pushing for reform, they will root for their success.”

ACA represents about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies.

RBR-TVBR observation: While we agree there’s a need for a la carte programming packages, local broadcasters are fully within their rights to charge for retransmission of their signals. If the MVPDs choose not to carry a local broadcaster, they do so at their own risk. If the major broadcast networks were to go cable-only, they would certainly be charging retransmission fees as well. Look at the ACA logo: “Connecting Hometown America.” Wouldn’t “hometown” mean local broadcasters in most people’s minds?


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.

1 COMMENT

  1. I feel Sinclair Broadcasting Group is engaging in 1910-1940 era Paramount Pictures block booking type of tying behavior and 1960-1970 era RKO General bribery type of tying behavior in retransmission consent by bribng like the Vietnam War, the General Tire/RKO General of the 1960′s and 1970′s, and the Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal of the 1970’s by not being very honest of not only the viewers by making them miss the shows on cable and satellite and also on themselves with the force of demanding cable and satellite to pay up in the retransmission consent to continue to carry the stations by engaging in 1910-1940 era Paramount Pictures block booking style type of tying behavior practices to abuse and misuse the retransmission consent payment option to force cable and satellite to carry digital subchannels that cable and satellite isn’t interested in carrying in order for carriage of carrying the main station, force cable and satellite to carry stations in markets where cable and satellite isn’t interested in carrying in order of carriage of carrying the stations in markets where cable and satellite is interested in carrying at all, help fund and pay for other broadcast stations that cable and satellite operators don’t carry in areas where they don’t serve at all, fund stations the broadcaster owns for another broadcasting group connected to the same person connecting to the ownership on the TV station unrelated to the retransmission mission dispute, fund stations that are not yet on the air, fund stations that they are considering thinking about acquiring or have yet to complete the purchase of a single station or purchase of multiple stations they’re acquiring from a broadcasting group or from a competing broadcasting group, and fund to pay for stations they manage in a JSA/LMA/SSA agreement with another owner or a competing broadcasting group to negotiate a retrans agreement “that is directly or indirectly conditioned on carriage of any other programming affiliated with such station (or with a person who owns or controls, is owned or controlled by, or is under common ownership or control with such station)’’ by abusing and misusing the retransmission consent payment system.

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