ACA Urges FCC Not to Remove DirecTV Conditions from News Corp.

American Cable Association Tells Federal Communications Commission News Corp. Still Benefits Despite Sale of Satellite-TV Operator to Liberty Media

News Corp. is getting some pushback on its request to get out from under conditions imposed on it by the Federal Communications Commission as part of the company's 2003 purchase of satellite-TV operator DirecTV.

News Corp. petitioned the FCC March 11 to lift the conditions. The company said its sale of DirecTV to Liberty Media justified lifting the conditions that required it to submit to commercial arbitration in cable-operator program-access complaints about negotiations for regional sports networks or retransmission-consent talks.

The FCC applied those conditions out of concerns that News Corp. would have the incentive and opportunity to deny “must-have” programming like sports or TV-station signals to multichannel-video competitors in favor of its own multichannel pay platform (DirecTV). But with the divestiture of DirecTV, News Corp., suggested, those conditions need no longer apply.

The American Cable Association -- members of which are small and midsized cable operators that must negotiate for carriage of stations and RSNs -- argued that the conditions should stay in place anyway.

"The fact that they have now sold DirecTV does not eliminate the benefits that News Corp. has received as a vertically integrated distributor for the past four years," the ACA said in response to the FCC's setting of a schedule for comments in News Corp.'s request. "The conditions should remain in place for its term.”

The commission gave interested parties until May 1 to comment, with reply comments due by May 16.