WASHINGTON -- The National Association of Broadcasters, along with the affiliate associations for ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, filed joint reply comments late yesterday with the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to reject a recent cable-backed petition seeking to give pay-TV providers increased leverage during retransmission consent negotiations. Retransmission consent, established as part of the 1992 Cable Act, is the market-based negotiation process in which a pay-TV provider and a local television station reach a carriage agreement for the TV station signal.
"Virtually all of the retransmission consent 'reforms' proposed" by pay-TV representatives and their supporters "have previously been considered by the Commission and rejected," the broadcast groups explained, noting that the agency lacks statutory authority to adopt such proposals. "The Commission should again reject these proposals."
NAB and the affiliate groups noted that the Communications Act, established by Congress, clearly states that television station signals may not be retransmitted by a pay-TV provider (also known a multichannel video programming distributor or MVPD) without the station's consent. The Commission's 'ancillary' regulatory authority "does not not empower it to do that which Congress has expressly said the Commission cannot do," the filing explained.
A compulsory arbitration requirement sought by some pay-TV providers would give MVPDs "a financial incentive to eschew meaningful negotiations and engage in a war of economic attrition with local stations," broadcasters told the Commission.
The broadcast groups also noted comments from Massillon Cable asserting that arbitration of broadcast station retransmission consent disputes would be cost "prohibitive." In previous comments, Massillon Cable noted a million dollars in expenses incurred in a single arbitration for carriage of a single cable programming network.
Yesterday's filing also noted the double-standard sought by pay-TV providers, which have asked the Commission to regulate the rates they pay for some--but not all--of their program services. Pay-TV representatives are not seeking FCC regulation of the rates for non-broadcast programming, the filing notes, "presumably" because many of the pay-TV companies seeking retrans regulation "are under common ownership with those very program services."
The 47-page filing can be viewed and downloaded in PDF format here.
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.