ION’s Burgess calls for level playing field


ION Media CEO Brandon Burgess says that it makes no sense that a cable or satellite company can monopolize those businesses in a market and have two broadcast television stations on top of it, while broadcasters face strict limits. And he also said it’s time for MVPDs to pay broadcasters according to the number of viewers they bring in – at the moment, the compensation is nowhere close to being adequate.

Burgess also took issue with the conventional wisdom among many broadcast television operators that there was no viable economic model for digital side channels. He said his company is running two networks on theirs, one aimed at children and one running programming on health and well-being. The concept is not only viable; he said it’s working for ION already.

ION is doing this without guaranteed access to cable carriage. Burgess said the material it runs is very specifically in the public interest and in that respect furthers FCC goals. But the FCC is not putting the regulations in place that force cable gatekeepers to pass the programming along to their subscribers.

Members of the small market panel that followed the one upon which Burgess sat echoed the pitch for television duopolies in small markets – in fact, the FCC should look at that instead of further constricting owners by banning SSAs and other local arrangements.

Susan Patrick of Patrick Communications noted that the need for small market TV duopoly predates the recession; and that the shaky ground upon which SSAs rest right now creates instability for broadcasters who don’t know if they should try one or stay away. And the bottom line is that instability chases away investors.