ATVA to FCC: Retrans is Marketplace Competition Problem

The American Television Alliance (ATVA) said the problems with a competitive communications marketplace are retrans blackouts, retrans fees, and broadcast consolidation in spite of FCC rules that are supposed to limit it, consolidation that drives retrans fees higher and has driven some smaller MVPDs have been pushed out of that marketplace.

That came in comments to the FCC on its second biennial report on the state of communications competition.

Broadcasters argue that the marketplace is wildly competitive and there should be far fewer regulations on them.

ATVA argues that broadcasters continue to consolidate despite FCC rules, skirting them via "loopholes" in the regs that allow them to control multiple stations--duopolies triopolies, "quadropolies" through sharing agreements or programming multicast channels with network programming.

ATVA said that according to its data, there are at least 110 examples of those virtual consolidated markets.

ATVA was responding to a request for comment by the Office of Economics and Analytics on "The State of Competition in the Communications Marketplace" for a biennial (every two years) report the FCC must prepare for Congress.

Related: FCC Approves Communications Marketplace Report

That encompasses competition for voice, video, audio and data services from "providers of telecommunications, providers of commercial mobile service, multichannel video programming distributors, broadcast stations, providers of satellite communications, internet service providers, and other providers of communications services."

The FCC has to assess whether laws and regulations, or "demonstrated marketplace practices" pose a barrier to competitive entry or expansion of existing competition.

The FCC issued its first communications competition report in 2018, so this will be its second bite at the apple, but its first since a federal appeals court threw out most of its most recent broadcast deregulatory order--in response to its congressionally mandated quadrennial review of whether regulations are in the public interest.

ATVA members include ACA Connects, AT&T, Charter, Dish, Verizon, Mediacom, and USTelecom. 

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.