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ACA Looks to FCC For Retrans Consent Solutions - Broadcasting & Cable

ACA Looks to FCC For Retrans Consent Solutions

Association says disparity in fees between large and small operators a key issue
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The American Cable Association is focused on the problems it sees with the retransmission consent process and will leave it to the FCC to come up with the right solution.

In its comments on the FCC inquiry into the petition for reform that ACA was a signatory to, the group, which represents smaller and mid-sized operators, said the key issues were the disparity of fees paid by larger and smaller operators and broadcasters' leveraging duopolies and joint agreements to boost their economic leverage over its members.

ACA said that its members pay more than twice what larger operators pay for the same broadcast signals without any "meaningful, cost-based justification."  Their other big problem is with duopolies (co-owned stations in a market) or the local marketing agreements or shared services agreements that allow the operating entity to negotiate for both stations.

According to one veteran broadcast attorney, the FCC has never weighed in on whether such negotiation-by-proxy are a de facto violation of the retrans mandate that negotiations be conducted in good faith, but ACA has no doubt
that the result is higher fees and an adverse impact on broadband deployment.

The FCC has not found that negotiation by proxy to be a de facto violation of the retrans mandate that negotiations be conducted in good faith, but ACA has no doubt that the result is higher fees and an adverse impact on broadband deployment.

But while ACA lays out the case against what it calls discriminatory pricing and undue leverage, it does not make any policy recommendations. "Specific remedies can be developed through a retransmission consent rulemaking," it said.

But ACA has already said the FCC should consider several specific remedies offered up in the petition for reform, including independent arbitration during retrans disputes and interim carriage during that arbitration.

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