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NAB Focuses Cap Comments on Pay TV

The National Association of Broadcasters has again told the FCC it needs to extend the UHF discount from the 39% national audience reach cap to all VHF stations as well, saying even that overstates their actual audience reach.

But while it says the FCC should reject the pay-TV industry's "self-serving arguments supporting the disparate regulation of TV broadcasters," it does not address many of its own members' call for disparate treatment in a separate filing.

In its reply comments on the FCC's inquiry into the cap and 50% UHF discount, NAB focused on pay-tv comments that the cap should be retained and the UHF discount eliminated, but did not address the broadcast TV affiliate associations' request that the FCC effectively double the cap for them, but not for network-owned stations. The last time affiliates and network-owned stations squared off over the cap, it fractured the association.

But NAB has plenty of other targets--cable operators, satellite operators, and sticks with taking aim at various pay TV arguments.

NAB says, for example, that the pay TV industry's allegations of excessive retrans bargaining power are misplaced, suggesting that it is highly concentrated MVPDs, with their dual control of the pay TV pipeline and broadband access, that are the powerbrokers.

[R]ather than TV stations being able to play multiple distributors against one another, as DISH asserts, in reality TV stations prefer to--indeed must–-reach retransmission agreements with all major pay-TV providers to ensure their accessibility to as many viewers as possible."

And to the Writers Guild of America comment that consolidation equates to a decline in diversity of content, and that broadcasters are the dominant provider, NAB says that is from an alternative universe.

NAB says TV stations have limited effective reach and only a fraction of the potential audience. NAB says that given that changed landscape, even discounting half of the "theoretical 100% audience reach...overstates their effective audience."

And while NAB conceded local TV news is a trusted news source relied on by "many," it said that reliance has declined in the face of competition from many other news sources, particularly digital ones that other commenters failed even to take into account.