Cable and satellite companies have been trying to get regulators to intercede on their behalf when it comes to retransmission consent – and the National Association of Broadcasters took their arguments and answered them one by one in a filing with the FCC.
* On network non-duplication and exclusivity: NAB pointed out that MVPDs cannot be allowed to import distant signal to get national broadcast network programming, since it undermines the local content of the station they are trying to circumvent – and if that station is circumvented and/or has its ability to generate income harmed, local citizens are deprived of its ability to produce news and informational programming, particularly under emergency conditions.
* Mandating interim carriage or arbitration would be unlawful: The use of standstills, which force broadcasters to supply their programming in the absence of a contract deprives broadcasters of a key negotiating tool. NAB says such orders are inconsistent with the Communications Act and are in fact unnecessary, since retransmission negotiations only rarely get to the point where a program disruption actually occurs.
* Joint station retransmission negotiations: NAB argues that multiple station negotiations “create efficiencies and help level the playing field for broadcasters,” particularly when confronted with an MVPD with a control over a high percentage of a DMAs viewer base. It is justified in part because the broadcast industry is much more decentralized than is the MVPD industry. Allowing multiple-station negotiations helps broadcasters mitigate the regional and national leverage many MVPDs can wield at the negotiating table. Finally, NAB notes that such negotiations have historically been less likely to lead to service disruptions than single-station negotiations.
NAB concluded, “Contrary to the claims of MVPD commenters, retransmission consent continues to increase the quantity, quality, and diversity of programming available to all American television viewers, whether they watch over-the-air, via pay TV, or online. Modifying the retransmission consent regime in the manner proposed by MVPDs would further tip the scales in their favor, hindering broadcasters’ ability to negotiate for the value of their signals, secure advertising, and invest resources in programming and services that meet the needs and interests of local viewers. The growth of multicast programming streams, high definition content, local news, and the delivery of signals to mobile devices discussed in NAB’s initial comments comes at a price. NAB urges the Commission not to impede further innovation and expansion of broadcast services through modifications to the network nonduplication, syndicated exclusivity, or retransmission consent rules, as proposed by television stations’ competitors in the video marketplace.”