An MVPD association, a watchdog, two unions and two large MVPDs have collaborated on a letter asking that an FCC to vigorously probe the use of LMAs and SSAs by local broadcast television and to delve into the retransmission negotiation process. NAB responded that broadcasters are working to earn enough cash to provide local news content that is generally unavailable from pay television providers.
“Increasingly,” the group wrote, “broadcasters are coordinating their activities through contractual arrangements and other means to avoid the Federal Communications Commission’s local television ownership rules. These practices are adversely affecting competition, journalistic independence and jobs, and are raising consumer costs in local communities all across the country.”
The coalition was chiefly concerned with local marketing agreements, shared service agreements and other such arrangements between separately owned stations in which news resources and content are shared.
It stated, “Regardless of the label and means of coordination, the outcome is often the same: layoffs of station staff, reduced journalistic independence, and diminished competition for audiences, advertisers and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) that carry these stations through retransmission consent agreements.”
The coalition also objected to stations connected via an LMA or SSA jointly negotiating retransmission consent contracts.
NAB’s Dennis Wharton responded to the letter, saying, “”Evidence shows that when a strong local TV station shares resources with another broadcaster, the result is the creation of more local news, weather and sports. The simple reality is that newsgathering and public affairs programming costs money, and that viewers benefit by more choice from a TV station that is free to the public. If the goal of Free Press is to eliminate competition that local broadcasters provide to pay TV conglomerates like Time Warner Cable and DISH, perhaps it should change its name to Pay Press.”
Entities signing on to the joint letter include Time Warner Cable, DISH Network, the American Cable Association, NABET/CWA, NG/CWA and Free Press.
RBR-TVBR observation: We can understand why a media watchdog might question local collaborative efforts – let the debate be held. But on the retrans front, we cannot see why a watchdog would attack a leading local news provider such as broadcast television to the benefit of MVPDs which as a rule provide no local news whatsoever.