ACA Seeks Tweak of Broadcast-Cable Election Notice Compromise

The American Cable Association is asking the FCC to tweak a cable-broadcast compromise on carriage election notifications with which it generally agrees.

That came in reply comments on an FCC proposal, comments delayed due to the government shutdown.

According to the deal struck by NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and the National Association of Broadcasters, starting with the 2020 election cycle, "a commercial broadcast TV station would be required to send notice of its must carry or retransmission consent election to a cable operator only if the station changed its election status from its previous election. In those cases, the broadcaster would send its notice to an email address listed in the cable operator’s online public file or in the FCC’s Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS) database, for cable operators that do not have an online public file."

Only a single notice has to be send to corporate rather than each system, and by e-mail rather than registered mail, though cable operators would have to respond by e-mail confirming receipt of the election.

NAB and NCTA say the compromise “would alleviate the burdens associated with the current notification process and meet the needs of both broadcasters and cable operators.”

ACA points out that the new system would create a new burden on smaller operators who would have to post an e-mail address to an FCC database. For larger systems that means only one e-mail address rather than one for each system. But for smaller operators it is a new requirement.

ACA says to balance the new rules, the FCC should allow cable operators who can't make the deadline for designating an e-mail address and sending confirmations to broadcasters to require broadcasters to continue to file elections by certified mail per current rules in the interim. And if the FCC allows to let DBS providers continue to receive election notices by certified mail, smaller operators should be able to do so as well.

Finally, says ACA, turnabout is fair play. The FCC should adopt comparable flexibility for notices cable operators are required to send to broadcasters by certified mail.

Those cable notices include repositioning or deletion of signals, changes in technical configurations, notices that a cable system is no longer exempt from the network nonduplication or syndicated exclusivity rules (once it has more than 1,000 subs).

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. That is the letter broadcasters and cable ops agree needs changing.

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.