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NCTA Weighs In On Retrans Debate

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is ready to "engage" in the debate over retransmission consent, according to NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow.

The American Cable Association has been out front on a la carte because it represents more of the smaller and midsize operators who have much less retrans clout than a Comcast or Time Warner.

While NCTA had essentially sat out the debate, the Sinclair carriage disputes with Suddenlink last year and more recently Mediacom helped prompt the change. "My members, all of them, decided that, though they may not necessarily agree ultimately on what a solution would be, they would prefer to have NCTA engage in this debate."

McSlarrow said there should be a way for broadcasters to work together, saying each brings value to the other. But he called "complete nonsense" the argument that retransmission consent is "purely and simply a free market negotiation."

He said broadcasters start with free spectrum, then get to provide it on an "exclusive" basis because the law prohibits the importation by cable of distant signals, then if they are in a situation where they might have to pay to get carried, they have must-carry protection, which allows them to demand carriage. He called it a "heads I win, tails you lose regime."

NCTA is not "racing to the Hill for legislation," said McSlarrow, "we just want to be part of that conversation." He did say he would be open to a bill getting rid of the so-called must-buy requirement that cable subcribers have to at least buy the basic tier, where broadcasters must be carried by law.

John Eggerton
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.