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ACAC: NCTC Retransmission Consent Good Faith Protections Yield Results

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ACA Connects is telling the FCC that the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA) appears to have paid off in terms of program pricing for smaller operators banding together to do retrans deals with larger broadcast groups.

That is according to an ex parte filing summarizing a meeting between Ross Lieberman of ACA Connects (accompanied by ACAC outside counsel Michael Nilsson) and Tyler Bridegan of new Republican FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington’s office.

The topic was growing broadcast media consolidation and the resulting increases in retransmission consent fees.

But the good news, according to ACAC, was that in the wake of the TVPA, which requires large station groups to negotiate with buying groups, notably the National Cable Television Cooperative, in good faith, the first retrans negotiations under that regime resulted in lower fees than if the smaller MVPDS had negotiated individually rather than in a buying group.

NCTC's equal bargaining status took effect July 20.

ACAC pushed for years to get the government to recognize NCTA, so the TVPA mandate was a victory for the association. But ACAC signaled that while an improvement, the problem was not solved. "Make no mistake, the broadcasters still have an incredible amount of leverage and the terms and conditions of these deals were not great for the small cable operators opting into them," the summary said.

ACAC said more good news was that the FCC had proposed nearly $10 million in fines against Sinclair-associated stations for failing to negotiate in good faith, and $48 million in fines of Sinclair, also for, among other things, failing to negotiate in good faith.

Smaller cable operators banded together under the National Cable Television Cooperative to negotiate better deals for TV station carriage than they could on their own when going up against large TV station groups.  

NCTC collectively represents "hundreds" of smaller operators in programming negotiations, including broadcast stations, but before TVPA was not covered by the FCC's requirement that those negotiations be conducted in good faith, as they must be with individual MVPDs.