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ACA: Flip Response To Retrans Crisis From Out-Of-Touch Broadcasters Proves Eshoo Bill Needed

American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement regarding the National Association of Broadcasters' opposition to retransmission consent reform draft legislation proposed by Rep. Anna Eshoo:

"NAB's outright rejection of Rep. Eshoo's thoughtful and well-intentioned draft legislation on retransmission consent shows that retrans-hungry owners of network-affiliated TV stations have lost touch with the interests of their own viewers.

"After 3 million Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks subscribers in major markets like New York, Los Angeles and Dallas lost access to their local CBS station for 32 days in August and September, the broadcasters audaciously proclaim, ‘There is no such thing as a ‘blackout' of broadcast TV programming.'  I'm sure their viewers would strongly disagree and would praise Rep. Eshoo for trying to make sure that such blackouts never happen again.

"Thus, it's hard to imagine how the broadcast industry could doubt the pro-consumer thrust of Rep. Eshoo's bill.  The bill grants the Federal Communications Commission the authority to intervene in these disputes and prevent consumers from losing access to their local broadcast service -- a point clearly missed by broadcasters who complain that the bill does not require pay-TV providers to give consumer refunds and waive early termination fees.  Obviously, the elimination of blackouts would obviate the need for rebates and waivers.

"Reports that Eshoo's bill mandates a la carte are false.  What it does is protect consumers by allowing them to skip the purchase of a tier containing TV stations that have elected retransmission consent. This will allow consumers to take advantage of the fact that broadcast signals are free over-the-air and to save money, if they wish, by using an antenna.  The NAB will say in press releases that their programming is available free to over-the-air antenna households, but networks and stations owners don't actually want their viewers to choose this option because it's less money in their pockets.

"Not surprisingly, NAB likes to have it both ways. The trade group will savage a cable operator that even attempts to secure exclusive TV Everywhere rights but defend forever their cocoon of federal regulations that provide exclusive territorial rights to TV stations in every local market. When consumers figure out what broadcast regulations are really costing them, don't expect NAB to offer anyone a refund.

"NAB's most far-fetched assertion is that three large pay-TV providers are manufacturing a crisis over retransmission consent, but the fact is that the American Cable Association's 850 small cable operators have been talking about the retransmission consent crisis for more than a decade.  On February 3, 2003, ACA filed comments with the FCC explaining how broadcasters ‘exploit retransmission consent when dealing with small cable companies.'  This problem has been building for many years.  The broadcasters have only themselves to blame for the crisis.

"Rep. Eshoo, a California Democratic, is not NAB's first swipe at a Capitol Hill lawmaker who supports change.  The NAB also pilloried Republican Congressman Steven Scalise of Louisiana for suggesting changes to the rules governing retransmission consent.  When Democrats and Republicans -- who normally don't agree on much -- can agree that change is needed to protect consumers, they are confirming that the NAB is simply out of touch and reform is needed."

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