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Small Cable's View of Retransmission

4/20/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Here is an excerpt from the opening speech by Matthew M. Polka, president/CEO of American Cable Association (ACA), at the group's 14th Annual Summit in Washington April 16. The organization represents 1,100 small and rural cable operators that collectively serve more than 8 million viewers.

The big broadcast lobby out in Las Vegas this week calls us “cable monopolists” and “discriminators against television broadcasters.”

Today, in an ad in Communications Daily, here's what the NAB said, knowing you, our members, were coming to town to tell your customers' stories:

“This week members of the American Cable Association will be on Capitol Hill urging Congress to disrupt the retransmission consent process to favor cable operators. These negotiations, which are working as Congress intended, allow local broadcasters to fairly seek compensation for their programming, which is highly valued by consumers. But don't take our word for it. In a January 30 interview with Multichannel News regarding altering the retransmission consent process, American Cable Association President Matt Polka said, 'This is not something we can win on the academic merit and substance of our arguments.'”

But it wasn't a period at the end of my sentence. It was a comma! What did I say after the comma? “We win on the strength of our political message and the recognition on the part of Congress that there is a consumer need to be addressed.”

So why are we here? Because NAB didn't tell Congress and consumers the whole story:

  • Retransmission consent is wrong, and it has nothing to do with a fair or free market, because government rules and market exclusivity stack the deck before we even get to the negotiating table. That's not fair, and consumers all across the country have to pay for it everyday.

  • A digital transition without a right to down-convert signals makes no sense because who will be harmed the most? Consumers.

  • Government-mandated DTV carriage and multicast must-carry? What about earning that carriage with services consumers want, rather than asking Uncle Sam to mandate it? Haven't consumers had to pay long enough for the spectrum they as taxpayers gave you for free anyway?

And ACA members are monopolists? The only monopoly we're familiar with is the one the broadcasters have from the government to keep out competition from their local markets. That's no free market.

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