ACA: NAFTA Should Not Be Vehicle For Retrans Boost

Smaller cable operators have told the U.S. Trade representative not to include Canadian retrans payments into a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

That came in a letter Monday (Oct. 16) to USTR office trade policy staff committee chairman Edward Gresser from the American Cable Association.

That was a reference to comments last spring from broadcasters who argued that Canadian MVPDS should be paying border stations for carrying their signals.

ACA says requiring Canada's MVPDs would mean that Canadian TV stations would start charging American MVPDs carrying border Canadian stations in the U.S., further driving up the price of TV service to consumers.

ACA also says broadcasters have oversimplified the complex reciprocal copyright and communications provisions defining their respective rights.

ACA already argues the retrans system is an unfair advantage for broadcasters that leads to higher prices for consumers and not necessarily to the greater investment in programming and localism broadcasters claim.

On the other side, it argues, Canada would soon be subject to the same retrans blackouts ACA argues have been plaguing the U.S. Broadcasters counter that most carriage deals are struck without incident, and those where impasses occur are simply the expiration of contracts where the MVPD is not willing to pay the price broadcasters argue their must-have programming deserves.

"The harms outlined above would only be exacerbated if the USTR pursues changes to domestic Canadian law to establish a separate retransmission consent regime in that country under which United States broadcasters could demand payment from Canadian MVPDs," ACA concludes.

President Trump has long attacked NAFTA as a bad deal that needed renegotiating, a process currently underway.

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.