TVFreedom Takes On NCTC

The coalition is taking aim at the American Cable Association and its defense of the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC).

TVFreedom, which includes the National Association of Broadcasters and major network affiliate associations, is continuing its pitched battle with ACA and other retrans reform backers. It has pointed to cable ad sales consortia, and now NCTC's programming-buying consortium as comparable to the TV station joint sales agreements the FCC is planning to disallow in a vote Monday, March 31.

The broadcasters said Thursday they want Congress and the FCC to investigate the claim that NCTC and other cable consortia are helping save consumers on their cable bills. The FCC has billed the JSA and coordinated retrans limits as a way to stem rising cable costs.

In comments to the FCC this week, ACA said that, when considering the state of video competition, the commission needs to consider the "critical role" buying groups play for its small and mid-sized operator members.

"Without buying groups, these cable operators would pay higher programming fees, and this would mean higher costs for their customers," said the ACA.

Among the questions TVFreedom wants answered: "If NCTC and other buying groups are effectively negotiating for lower cable programming fees on behalf of cable operators, what has caused consumers' monthly pay-TV bills to rise at twice the rate of inflation for the past 15 years?"

TVFreedom issued a press release, but a spokesperson said that it is expected to be followed up with a formal request for an inquiry by one or more of its members. He would not speculate on which.

“By lashing out at the independent cable community, the National Association of Broadcasters and its TVFreedom proxy are engaged in a desperate and pathetic effort to deflect attention away from the fact that TV stations have been caught red-handed by the Federal Communications Commission in colluding in the negotiation of retransmission consent in an effort to gouge small cable operators in dozens of markets around the country,” said ACA President Matt Polka.

“We certainly believe that a congressional and/or regulatory investigation into these types of dubious pay-TV business practices is needed on behalf of America’s pay-TV consumers,” said the TVfreedom spokesman.

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.