ACA: AT&T/DirecTV Needs Fair Pricing Conditions

The American Cable Association is telling Congress it thinks the government needs to put conditions on the AT&T/DirecTV deal to decrease the incentive of DirecTV-affiliated programmers from charging higher prices to their rivals, which include hundreds of ACA members.

That is according to the written testimony of Ross Lieberman, SVP of government affairs for hearings on the proposed deal in both the House and Senate June 24.

Lieberman cited ACA's concern over consolidation in general, including the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal and Comcast/Charter system swaps.

"Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) need to ensure that consumers who reside in markets served by smaller MVPDs will not lose any competitive options or see their prices increase as the consolidation wave continues," he said.

ACA wants a condition preventing AT&T/DirecTV from charging rivals more for programming, but wants a better enforcement mechanism than the arbitration conditions imposed when Liberty bought DirecTV or Comcast bought NBCU.

While it was at it, ACA also said the FCC should levy regulatory fees on DBS as it does on cable operators. ACA pointed out that the FCC has said that the per-sub fees for cable operators and IPTV providers would drop from $1 to 68 cents if DBS were included.

ACA also pushed the FCC to allow program-buying consortium NCTC, which gives smaller and medium-sized groups more muscle in negotiations with programmers, to file program access complaints. The FCC has for a couple of years been considering changing the definition of buying group to include NCTC.

AT&T has proposed buying DirecTV for just south of $50 billion, subject to approval by the Justice Department and the FCC.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.