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ACA: Time for Broadcasters to Join Retrans Revamp Effort

The American Cable Association took aim Tuesday at Northwest Broadcasting's good faith bargaining complaint at the FCC, saying that was evidence that the retransmission consent regime was not working as well as the National Association of Broadcasters argues.

Northwest filed the complaint against DirecTV and asked the FCC to compel the satellite operators to produce evidence that its asking price was market-based.

“It is without doubt that the TV stations that filed the FCC complaint against DirecTV discarded the National Association of Broadcasters’ talking points about how retransmission consent is working perfectly and change is out of the question," said ACA president Matt Polka in a statement.

ACA, along with DirecTV, is a member of the American Television Alliance, which has been the cable industry's lead voice calling for reforming the retransmission consent regime, an effort NAB and TVFreedom, its point group on the issue, have been resisting, arguing that the regime works fine and results mostly in deals rather than impasses like the one between DirecTV and Northwest over prices.

“Judging from the TV stations’ complaint, it is evident that the retransmission consent market is broken and not working for these broadcasters any better than for cable operators," said Polka. "The time has come for these TV stations and others that have also filed good faith complaints to step out from NAB’s long shadow and join ACA in supporting efforts to update the rules and equip them with a strong referee that can help protect consumers and competition when negotiations break down."

That referee would be the FCC, which is currently reviewing the definition of good faith bargaining per instructions from Congress in the STELAR satellite compulsory license renewal legislation that was renewed last fall.

"ACA has it wrong. Americans like broadcasters and rely on local news and network entertainment every day, but consumer surveys show astonishing dissatisfaction with pay-TV providers time after time,” said spokesman Robert Kenny. “False claims about retransmission consent don't hide the fact that consumers are fed up with abusive pay-TV billing practices and cable rate hikes that have averaged two times the rate of inflation for 20 years.  It’s time for the pay-TV industry to acknowledge the fact that it needs to eliminate deceptive billing practices and put consumers first.”

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.