DirecTV Disses Broadcasters

DirecTV says it is time for Congress to step in and either
"jettison broadcast regulations altogether"--that would include must-carry/retrans--or
make the laws "smarter to reflect the marketplace.

That is according to the prepared testimony of Michael
Palkovic, executive VP at DirecTV, for Wednesday's House Communications
Subcommittee hearing on reauthorizing STELA, the law that grants a compulsory
license for satellite operators to import out-of-market distant affiliated TV
station signals.

Palkovic did not paint a flattering picture of over-the-air

"Broadcast television has gotten far too
expensive," he said. "It is often unavailable where consumers want
it, when they want it. Customers are forced to buy unwanted programming to get
it, and the broadcast industry increasingly takes it away from viewers in 'blackouts.'"

Palkovic takes aim at the 1992 Cable Act that created the
retrans regime. "In sum, the 1992 Cable Act has maximized broadcasters'
leverage to levels unforeseen by its authors. The results for a consumer are
higher prices, lack of choice and a total of 154 "loss[es] of local

He also takes aim at joint retrans negotiations, must-buy
cable provisions, and the network nonduplication, syndicated exclusivity rules,
notice requirements before broadcast programming is removed form an MVPD, and
the prohibition on dropping broadcast programming during sweeps weeks.

He calls those "special privileges for broadcasters" and
says Congress "must address the imbalance created by decades of regulatory
underbrush clogging the video marketplace."

"[I]f the media conglomerates continue to
reject calls for packaging flexibility, then they leave us no option but to
support government intervention. The status quo is simply unacceptable,"
he said. He also said that Congress should step in and either prohibit
blackouts or permit MVPDs to deliver replacement signals.

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.