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ACA: Tribune Blackout Illustrates Need For Government Action on Retrans

In an April 5 statement, American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka stressed the need for action by the Federal Communications Commission and Congress on retransmission consent in response to the consumer harm that resulted from Tribune Broadcasting's five-day blackout of millions of DirecTV satellite-TV consumers.

"ACA has maintained all along that the fact that retransmission consent deals eventually get done does not mean the market is working," Polka said. "ACA is certain that millions of DirecTV customers callously blacked out by Tribune Broadcasting are now painfully aware that the current retrans regime is broken and no longer serves the public interest."

Tribune pulled 23 TV stations in 19 cities from approximately 5 million DirecTV consumers, prompting DirecTV to file a complaint on April 2 with the Federal Communications Commission alleging bad-faith negotiation. Tribune restored service three days later.

Congress awarded commercial TV stations retransmission consent rights in the 1992 Cable Act. ACA believes the 20-year-old law is outdated because it often fails to reflect the significant changes in the market resulting in local TV stations affiliated with major networks ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX having too much market power in negotiations.  Making matters worse, these network affiliates frequently coordinate their retransmission consent negotiations in an effort to gain insurmountable leverage over ACA members and rake in higher retrans fees - costs ultimately borne by pay-TV consumers.

ACA wants the law modernized to meet the needs of today's consumer with a balanced set of regulations.

"To prevent further blackouts and collusive behavior by TV stations fixated on gouging consumers, ACA believes the FCC should complete action on the pending notice of proposed rulemaking and that House and Senate committees should start hearings for the purpose of designing a new retransmission consent system that treats consumers more fairly," Polka said.

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