NAB restates the case for leaving retrans process alone


Dennis WhartonAccording to the National Association of Broadcasters, were it not for three companies – Time Warner Cable, Dish and DirecTV, there would likely be no controversy whatsoever about retransmission consent. NAB said their repeated participation in the majority of negotiation impasses is nothing more than a ploy to angle for federal intervention on their behalf.

Dennis Wharton spoke with reporters and noted the massive amount of money that the trio of MVPDs is spending to press its case in Washington, hoping that folks there in Congress and the FCC will tilt the rules in their favor.

Wharton brushed aside claims that they are doing it with their subscriber’s monthly bills in mind – he said if they were worried about keeping subscriber costs low, they wouldn’t impose exorbitant regional sports fees on them as TWC is doing in Los Angeles, and they wouldn’t charge upwards of $200 for a subscriber to simply unsubscribe.

The termination fees effectively parry the need for TWC to fully compete with satellite and telco MVPDs, since they make it impossible for a consumer to move from one to another without incurring significant expense.

Wharton said that broadcasters earn their fees by bringing in the bulk of an MVPDs viewers, regularly placing 90% of the programs that make the weekly top 100 list; and he added that the retransmission fees broadcasters collect also goes to the production of local news and emergency service, something most MVPDs do not provide at all.

Asked why the NAB opposes the introduction of arbitration into the system, Wharton said first that in general it is not necessary to add that kind of delay and expense when the system as is works just fine unless one of the three aforementioned MVPDs is involved.

Beyond that, Wharton said it was really a matter of looking out for the smaller television operators, who would have to take on a platoon of attorneys available to a large national organization with the much more modest access to counsel affordable by a local or regional company.

The CBS/TWC did make retransmission a hot issue, and it is obvious that MPVDs are going to try to use STELA as a vehicle upon which to attach their goals. He said NAB would be engaged in an educational and promotional campaign to battle back. He said that members of Congress need to know that the system is working just fine, and to the benefit of consumers, with the exception of the actions of “three bad actors.”