The American Cable Association has added its voice to those asking the FCC to look into the practice of creating shared service agreements between rival local television stations. The group says it gives broadcasters even more power when it comes time to negotiate retransmission fees. ACA actually called them LMAs, or local marketing agreements.
“ACA believes the FCC should determine whether LMAs are skirting national policy intended to promote local broadcast competition,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. “LMAs set the price for retransmission consent for one broadcaster and its direct horizontal competitor, leading to higher retransmission consent costs for consumers.”
In fact, ACA wants the FCC to look into retransmission system in its own right, charging that broadcasters engage in the “heavy-handed tactic” of pulling a signal during negotiation, a move that harms consumers.
“We hope the FCC takes this opportunity to fix a broken retransmission consent process that permits a broadcaster like Sinclair to pull its signals from cable systems while a retransmission consent complaint is being reviewed by the FCC, inflicting harm on consumers who expect uninterrupted access to local news, weather and time-sensitive information such as school closings, traffic delays and missing-child alerts,” Polka said.
The National Association of Broadcasters has noted many times in the past that retransmission disputes that result in the pulling of a channel off a cable system lineup are rare and generally the disruption of service is of short duration.
RBR-TVBR observation: First it was the watchdog community, then a pair of senators, and now a competitor jumps on the bandwagon. Everybody and his brother wants the FCC to look into SSAs, LMAs, JSAs (joint sales agreements), TBAs (time brokerage agreements) and whatever other initials they go under these days. It is a natural topic for Michael Copps anyway. And in fact, the Honolulu SSA is already under scrutiny, so we probably won’t even have to wait for the quadrennial review to get fully under way. This is something that is going to happen.