ACA Backs Allowing Broadcasters to Submit Carriage Elections by Email

The American Cable Association supports allowing broadcasters to use email rather than certified mail to make their triennial carriage elections, but with some safeguards to make sure the email gets through.

That came in reply comments on the FCC's proposal to allow more electronic delivery of information, like subscriber notices and retrans/must carry elections, to save more trees.

The FCC in January ruled that satellite carrier Dish Network was within its rights to deny must-carry to a San Francisco noncommercial TV station because the station used Priority Express Mail rather than certified mail to make its carriage election, signaling that the station's letter was trumped by the letter of the law. The proposed change to an email election would prevent such TV station snafus, but ACA is looking more to the benefits to smaller cable ops.

"We support email delivery of TV station carriage elections because it can ease the burden on cable operators to process up to hundreds of such notices that they receive from broadcasters," said ACA president Matt Polka. "Use of email to make carriage elections is clearly less burdensome and a reform ACA urges the FCC to adopt."

Related: NAB Tells FCC Retrans Should Be Default Election

ACA supports a proposal by NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and Verizon that would allow TV stations to send their elections to a single email address provided by the MVPD, but ACA wants to tweak that proposal to further minimize burdens on MVPDs, particularly its smaller and midsized operators on whom such burden falls more heavily.

ACA proposes requiring stations to send a copy of the election to an FCC-hosted address that would generate a receipt to both the broadcaster and MVPD, creating an electronic paper trail, as it were.

For smaller systems, it also wants the FCC to allow for posting email addresses in the FCC's Cable Operators and Licensing System (COALS) database, rather than the systems having to set up their own online public folder for receiving carriage notices.

ACA agrees the email system for making elections should be an opt-out regime.

ACA does not support a broadcaster proposal that stations be allowed to post their elections in public files rather than having to send them to MVPDs. It also opposes making retransmission consent rather than must carry the default election if stations fail to make a choice, as some broadcasters have suggested, saying it would "unnecessarily insert uncertainty and confusion into a process that has existed for nearly 25 years."

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.