Cablers want retransmission data in public file


The American Cable Association wants MVPD subscribers to know when separately owned television stations that are operating under an SSA or other form of LMA coordinate their retransmission consent negotiations by placing any agreements to do so in their public file.

ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said, “Requiring disclosure of all agreements between separately owned TV stations in the same market, particularly those that facilitate the coordination of retransmission consent negotiations, would serve the public interest by enabling regulatory and antitrust authorities to both monitor the competitive effects of such agreements and detect violations of FCC regulations and federal antitrust Statutes.”

ACA made its remarks available to the FCC in a 12/22/11 filing.

Polka added, “Disclosure of all agreements between separately owned, same-market stations in broadcasters’ public inspection files is necessary because today the information needed to evaluate whether broadcasters are in compliance with current media ownership, retransmission consent, and antitrust rules is not otherwise readily available. The public needs to know whether broadcasters are trying to eliminate competition in local markets through collusion and drive up the prices pay-television providers pay to deliver free, over-the-air television to their customers.”

Broadcasters are already obligated to file documentation of any LMA they may be party to in their public files.

RBR-TVBR observation: We suspect that MVPD subscribers may safely assume that stations operated in tandem work out business arrangements in tandem. But if the government is going to insist that this is a basis for making negotiation arrangements a matter of public record, then it should require the exact same disclosure from programmers who bundle cable channels together.

To paraphrase ACA, the public needs to know when cable programmers are trying to eliminate competition by forcing MVPDs to carry channels with little subscriber interest in order to get the handful of channels subscribers do wish to receive.