Vertical integration in the video marketplace led to the creation of program access rules which make sure MVPDs that control critical programming make it available to competing MVPDs. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) thinks it is not time to let the rules sunset.
Markey made his views known to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski via a letter in which he stated the initial need for the rules – noting that they were put in place to encourage competition in a vertically-integrated environment and to avoid costly and time-consuming prosecution of disputes on a case-by-case basis. He said conditions have not changed to the extent that the rules can be dispensed with.
“The sunset of the program access rules could lead to a new dawn of less choice and higher prices for consumers,” said Rep. Markey. “If we do not extend the program access rules, the largest cable companies could withhold popular sports and entertainment programming from their competitors, reducing the competition and choice that has benefitted consumers. I urge Chairman Genachowski and the FCC Commissioners to extend the program access rules that have helped to level the playing field in the paid television marketplace.”
Markey’s remarks were seconded by The Coalition for Competitive Access to Content (CA2C), which counts the American Cable Association, AT&T and CenturyLink among its members. It said, “The Coalition for Competitive Access to Content agrees with Congressman Edward J. Markey – the principal House author of the 1992 Cable Act – that the cable exclusivity prohibition continues to serve ‘vital public interest goals’ and remains necessary to preserve and protect competition in today’s video marketplace. As Congressman Markey correctly notes in his Oct. 2 letter to Chairman Julius Genachowski, not enough has changed in the video marketplace that would warrant a sunset of the rule, which remains essential to ensuring competition, lower prices for consumers, and increased broadband deployment. Absent the rule, cable operators could withhold essential must-have programming that they own from their competitors, including some of the most popular national programming networks, as well as crucial regional sports networks. While we are deeply concerned about reports regarding the direction the Commission’s deliberations may be taking, we are hopeful that Chairman Genachowski and his fellow Commissioners will heed the advice of Congressman Markey as they complete their deliberations on the rule.”