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ACA: Joint Agreements Should Count As Ownership

Cable ops want end to tag team retrans negotiations among independent stations

The American Cable Association has provided the FCC with what it says are 46 instances of independently owned Big Four network affiliates jointly negotiating retransmission consent deals, which it says is a 28% boost in two years that the FCC should curtail by changing its ownership attribution rules.

That came in comments in the FCC's proposal per its quadrennial review of its media ownership rules. "At a minimum, ACA is urging the FCC to conclude that coordinated negotiations among two separately owned, Big Four broadcasters in a market violate the intent of the agency's duopoly rules and should be prohibited in the public interest under the multiple ownership rules," said ACA President Matt Polka in a statement.

The FCC sought comment in that proposal on whether joint services agreements between stations should be counted toward ownership limits, which would mean in many of the small markets where ACA members are negotiating retrans, they would no longer be allowed.

"The Commission must take into account that the most significant change in the marketplace since the time of the last quadrennial review is the substantial growth in retransmission consent revenue, and its increasing importance as a revenue source to local broadcast stations," said ACA. "The Commission must also take note of the impact on competition of the widespread and increasing practice of separately owned same-market broadcasters coordinating their retransmission consent negotiations," it added.