Members of the Fox Television Affiliates Association are hoping to get some rule changes put in place that would put some restraints on the pricing power of cable programmers, to avoid taking more and more high interest sports and entertainment programming off the air and available by subscription only. One concern is that it will be difficult to get a fair hearing in Congress due to a serious imbalance – that being the amount of money donated to key committee members.
We thought a good test would be six key members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Former chair John Dingell (D-MI), former telecom subcommittee chair Ed Markey (D-MA), current chair Rick Boucher (D-VA), E&C Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX), former telecom subcom Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) and current Ranking Member Cliff Stearns (R-FL).
We checked 2008 PAC donations at OpenSecrets.org. The results were stark.
Markey picked up $10K from both the NAB and NCTA. But only one other broadcast company donated $2.5K, compared to 10 cable/satellite/programmer companies which combined for $68.5K.
Dingell also got $10K apiece from NAB and NCTA, plus $4K from one broadcast compared to $36K from seven cab/sat/progs.
NCTA outbid NAB $10K to $5K when it came to Boucher. One broadcaster added $1K, while six cab/sat/progs chipped in $24.5K.
NCTA outbid NAB $10K to $6K in Barton’s case. Six cab/sat/progs added $31K, while nobody aided NAB.
Stearns received $5K from NAB compared to $10K from NCTA, and nothing from broadcasters compared to $18.5K from six cab/sat/progs.
Finally, Upton picked up $5.3K from NAB along with NCTA’s routine $10K, no additional broadcast funds, and $30.5K from seven cab/sat/progs.
In all, NCTA sent $60K to these six legislators, compared to the NAB’s $41.3K, and the $7.5K coming from other broadcasters was dwarfed by the $199K that was donated by the cable/satellite/programmer side. Totals are broadcasters $48.8K; cable etc. over five times as much with $259K.
RBR/TVBR observation: Legislators are only human, and when somebody gives them a present, they remember. Those that don’t have a gift to offer don’t register in the same way. The cable/broadcast wheel-greasing imbalance may be a serious problem.