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ACA: Broadcaster Blackouts, Rate Hikes Plague Small Cable Operators

American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement on Jan. 3 to highlight that TV station blackouts and excessive rate hikes continue to plague small cable operators, and to call on Congress to update decades-old rules that govern retransmission consent negotiations:

"Everyone should know by now that just because some retransmission consent deals got done at the last minute doesn't mean small cable operators and their customers didn't get taken to the cleaners by local broadcasters, who are supposed to operate in the public interest.  Many ACA Members that signed deals before New Year's Day did so only reluctantly while others lost access to broadcast signals simply because they could not stomach broadcasters' exorbitant cash demands.

"Fischer Broadcasting, owner of ABC affiliate KOMO in Seattle, pulled its signal three days ago from Click! Cable TV, which serves about 20,000 customers in Tacoma, Wash.  Margaretville Telephone Co., a cable TV provider based in Margaretville, N.Y., lost access to both the ABC and NBC affiliates owned by Nexstar Broadcasting in the Binghamton, N.Y., market.

"These latest blackouts follow the mid-December incident in which American Spirit Media pulled Fox affiliate WUPW from Buckeye CableSystem in Toledo, Oh., after the station demanded a big fee increase despite poor ratings during most of the station's daytime and primetime programming periods.

"Last year, Congress launched a review of the 1992 Cable Act, focusing on the consumer harms caused by outdated retransmission consent policies that produced a record number of TV signal blackouts in 2012. We urge Congress to maintain the momentum and create a new law that will provide cable operators with more choice and consumers with appropriate protections from price-gouging media giants."

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