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ACA: Program Carriage Rules Should Not Be Expanded to Include Smaller Ops

The American Cable Association has asked the FCC to continue to exclude the majority of its members from program carriage rules, arguing that the rules were specifically targted by Congress to operators with the incentive to protect their co-owned cable nets.

ACA. which represents small and mid-sized operators, made that pitch in comments at the FCC on its proposal to make those rules even stronger by instituting shot clocks, standstills and more. ACA was specficallly responding to the FCC's question of whether the rules should be extended to cover all operators, not just the vertically integrated operators affiliated with with programmers who are currently covered by the rules.

ACA says that because Congress, in the 1992 Cable Act, clearly was not applying the rules to independent operators, the FCC has no authority to expand the rules to cover the vast majority of its members who have no programming affiliates, even if the FCC decided it wanted to.

"One thing is clear from the legislative history," said ACA President Matt Polka. "Congress intended that the program carriage rules apply to vertically integrated operators, not to all cable operators regardless of affiliation with programming vendors."

ACA said that, far from being a threat to independent programmers, smaller operators aer long-standing supporters and frequently the first customers as a way to differentiate themselves from larger MVPDs.