Comcast Backs NCTA 'Public Policy Approaches'

Says company will be association resource in upcoming reform debates

Comcast has given the National Cable & Telecommunications Association a vote of confidence in the wake of some angst, or at least chatter, about NCTA's response last week to introduction of video reform legislation.

The top cable operator, and NCTA's largest member, said it remained aligned with NCTA's public policy approach, but also said it was important to insure that "broadcasters remain incented to make future investments in content."

NCTA, which has historically avoided weighing in on specific retrans reform legislation given that some of its members—prominently Comcast—also have broadcast interests that benefit from increased retrans payments, moved the needle some last week. NCTA President Michael Powell has generally talked about retrans or other reforms in the context of a larger telecom rewrite, rather than any individual legislation.

He did not diverge dramatically from that position last week but did single out retrans.

In response to retrans reform bills from Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Powell said of the bills—without specifically endorsing either—that they "highlight what is quickly becoming a growing consensus–namely, that laws enacted over twenty years ago are out of sync with the realities of today’s video marketplace and in many cases serve to inhibit innovation, thwart fair competition, and harm consumers. In particular, we welcome an examination of a retransmission consent regime that is increasingly fractured and in need of some repair."

He said NCTA was willing to work with Congress on "responsible reforms."  Making the big push for retrans reform has been the American Television Alliance (ATVA), whose members include Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cablevision and which has taken a hard line against broadcasters.

"Comcast NBCUniversal and NCTA are aligned in our public policy approaches," said Sena Fitzmaurice, VP of government communications, for Comcast, NCTA's largest member. "NCTA is the trade association for the cable industry—an ecosystem consisting of cable operators and cable programmers. While there may sometimes be different public policy approaches on particular issues between programmer and operator members of NCTA, all of NCTA’s members share a strong interest in growing the overall cable ecosystem and ensuring that there is a legislative and regulatory environment to encourage innovation, investment, and delivery of leading products, services, and content to our customers."

"As both a programmer and an operator, Comcast NBCUniversal is well positioned to play a constructive role within NCTA and in the ensuing public policy debates on telecom reform, and we look forward to working with NCTA and the entire industry to accomplish our mutual objectives, including ensuring that broadcasters remain incented to make future investments in content."