The decision on coordinated retransmission consent bargaining practices came in connection with the FCC's legally mandated quadrennial review of its media ownership rules, including the extent to which companies may own newspapers, television and radio stations in the same local market. The FCC is seeking public comment on proposed changes to its rules. ACA plans to participate by filing comments at the appropriate time.
ACA is encouraged by the FCC's decision to seek comment on coordinated retransmission consent between separately owned, same market broadcasters because TV station owners have been creating alliances and consolidating operations through legally binding agreements and through informal arrangements in order to gain insurmountable bargaining leverage over independent cable operators in broadcast carriage negotiations. Although broadcasters' conduct has caused cable bills to go up, it has not led to an increase in the quality of local programming, especially news.
Broadcasters, however, continue to defend the practice, and urge the FCC to allow coordinated retransmission consent negotiation to continue unchecked.
"It is unfathomable that TV stations would not only admit that separately owned broadcasters in the same market collude in establishing retransmission consent pricing terms for cable and satellite TV operators, but would defend the practice as harmless. Under any circumstance, there is simply no justification, legal or otherwise, for allowing TV station owners to engage in price fixing under the guise of resource ‘sharing agreements' that permit evasion of broadcast ownership limits, violate retransmission consent good faith rules, and defy antitrust statutes," Polka said.
Polka's comments came in response to Dec. 21 letter filed with the FCC by an entity called the Coalition of Smaller Market Television Stations.
Polka added that coordinated retransmission consent negotiations among separately owned broadcast stations in the same market lessen competition in local markets among broadcasters and lead to harmful hikes in retransmission consent fees that consumers eventually see in their cable and satellite TV bills.
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