ACA, Independents to FCC: Tackle Bundling First

Small and mid-sized cable operators have banded together with independent programmers to tell the FCC that reining in most favored nation (MFN) clauses and alternative distribution method (ADM) clauses is all well and good, but that it should tackle program bundling first in its effort to promote access to independent and diverse content. 

That came in a filing on the FCC's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking stemming from its program diversity inquiry.

A politically divided FCC back in September voted to propose prohibiting unconditional MFNs clauses and "unreasonable" ADMs.

Joining with ACA in the filing were independent programmers MAVTV Motorsports Network, One America News Network and AWE, and RIDE TV.

They said that while they were generally supportive of the MFN and ADM restrictions, focusing on those rather than channel bundling was like trying to put out a four-alarm fire with a cup of water.

They said that while those are a problem, in many cases they can't get deals, good or bad, because smaller operators don't have the money or bandwidth after having to strike bundled deals for channels they don't want forced on them by larger programmers with must-have programing that they tie to other "little-watched and overpriced content."

As to the MFNs and ADMs, the FCC has proposed prohibiting all MVPDs from entering into unconditional MFNs with independent programmers, they point out. Instead, they want the prohibition to apply to all large MVPDs with any programmer, while allowing small MVPDs to enter into them. They also want the FCC to look into unconditional MFNs in retrans deals, saying that such clauses require them to carry multicast channels they don't want in order to get ones they do.

It is unclear whether the FCC under new management will take action on the NPRM.

The FCC has yet to vote on a final order, and in the meantime a new sheriff has arrived.

The two commissioners who dissented from that decision are now in the majority, with senior Republican Ajit Pai having been tapped by President Donald Trump as the new chair.

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.