The FCC should back out of retransmission negotiations between broadcast television owners and pay-TV companies.
So says NAB in a response to an ex parte filing from Mediacom Communications Corporation, which is urging the commission to update its retransmission consent negotiation rules. Last week, Mediacom’s lobbyist Tom Larson told the agency: “The broadcast industry remains intent on exploring new tactics that will have the effect of pushing such negotiations towards a breakdown.”
He describes “an after-acquired systems provision on steroids” where it’s common for a broadcaster to demand that any terms agreed to by the parties also apply to any new acquired stations. But now some broadcast owners, he told the agency, are trying to get terms to apply to more stations in which the operator doesn’t have a financial stake in, calling these a “hunting license.”
NAB responds Wednesday that the complaint follows a string of requests to change the rules in the pay TV company’s favor. “The commission can and should dismiss Mediacom’s complaint as another ‘sky is falling’ ruse from arguably pay TV’s most strident advocate, and one of the nation’s most consumer-unfriendly companies,” writes NAB EVP/General Counsel Rick Kaplan.
In Mediacom’s world, broadcasters have all the power, according to Kaplan. They can impose, or “demand,” unilateral conditions on massive pay TV companies, and they gleefully pull their signals before extracting supra-competitive rents,” he writes, calling the Mediacom world “completely divorced from everyone else’s reality.
“In this instance, Mediacom complains about a proposal that is the rough equivalent of a most favored nation clause. This particular complaint is rich, given that MVPDs pioneered the use of MFNs in retransmission consent agreements, squeezing dollar after dollar out of smaller broadcasters along the way,” according to Kaplan, who adds Mediacom offers no justification the practice is prevalent.
NAB says the Mediacom filing proves what the broadcast lobby has been saying — the longer the FCC holds up “the flypaper of retransmission consent reform, the more flies it will attract. It’s time to close this proceeding, zap the flies and allow the parties to focus on negotiating with each other rather than the FCC.”