ACAction Brief - your connection to news and initiatives
Public Issue – November 24, 2010 

 Key Development  

Senate Hearing Showed Broken Retrans Regime

With millions of televisions viewers increasingly victimized by TV station blackouts, the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a hearing Nov. 17 on the strained state of retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and cable service providers around the country.

The subcommittee, led by Sen. John. Kerry (D-Mass.), convened to hear concerns of consumers and many cable and satellite service providers that the outdated retransmission consent law is encouraging TV stations to engage in eleventh-hour, strong-arm tactics and black out popular television channels.

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Groups Seek FCC Conditions On Comcast-NBCU Deal

The American Cable Association, along with five other organizations representing rural communications providers, sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski raising concerns about regulatory approval of the Comcast-NBC Universal merger without meaningful conditions that would prevent the new company from using its market power to hike programming fees well above market norms.

The letter -- sent Nov. 22 as the FCC is reportedly nearing completion of its review -- stressed the need for conditions that would both prohibit Comcast-NBCU from engaging in price gouging and allow competitors to rely on cost-efficient remedies for demonstrating that Comcast-NBCU had in fact violated FCC-imposed conditions.

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Massillon Setback Relevant To Comcast-NBC Universal Deal

The Federal Communications Commission's Nov. 18 ruling against Massillon Cable TV, a small cable operator in Ohio, provides further evidence that baseball-style commercial arbitration is not a viable remedy for smaller operators and that the agency needs to rethink how it crafts conditions in the Comcast-NBC Universal deal to ensure small operators and consumers are not harmed.

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Citing ACA Study, Sen. Sanders Wants Comcast-NBCU Nixed

Senator Sanders  
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent aligned with the Democratic Party, sent the Federal Communications Commission a letter urging regulators to reject the proposed Comcast-NBCU merger, saying the deal would create “an enormously powerful, vertically integrated media conglomerate, causing irreparable damage to the American media landscape and ultimately to society as a whole.”

In a statement, American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka agreed with Sen. Sanders that the deal would lead to higher costs to consumers and would damage competition in the pay-TV market that regulators have been attempting to nurture for nearly two decades.

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  News Headlines
  • Sources: FCC Chief Working On Net Neutality Proposal (Politico, 11/18)
    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is putting together a net neutrality proposal and plans to take action on the controversial issue as early as next month, according to several sources with knowledge of the situation.
  • Time Warner Cable To Test Cheaper TV Package (The New York Times, 11/18)
    In an apparent attempt to retain cable customers who are thinking of canceling, or to woo back people who have already canceled, Time Warner Cable will start a trial of a lower-cost cable subscription package next week in New York City.
  • Now That Broadband Grants Are Out, Commerce Seeks Money To Make Sure Funds Aren't Misused (The Washington Post, 11/18)
    The Commerce Department is done doling out $4 billion in broadband Internet grants. Now, it says it doesn't have enough money for oversight and monitoring of those grants to ensure they were put to good use.
  • Rules May Help To Stem U.S. TV Blackouts, Senators Say (Bloomberg Businessweek, 11/17)
    News Corp.’s dispute with Cablevision Systems Corp. that left 3 million homes without World Series games last month shows a system that needs to be overhauled, U.S. senators said today.
  • Genachowski: TV is 'Obstacle' To Broadband (TVNewsCheck, 11/16)
    FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski tells the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners that the current broadcast spectrum allocations "still reflect the previous era.
  • Comcast Talks With Regulators On NBC Deal Heat Up (Reuters, 11/16)
    Talks have intensified in recent days between U.S. regulators and representatives of cable giant Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) over its bid to take control of NBC Universal, according to people familiar with the talks.
  • Upton Memo: 'FCC Regulatory Compass Must Be Broken' (The Hill, 11/16)
    Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is circulating a memo this week illustrating his conservative credentials with a pledge to forestall the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net-neutrality ambitions.
  • Fix Broken Broadcast Retransmission Consent System (The Hill, 11/15)
    Few things are more frustrating to a former Congressman than to see a law he sponsored twisted in a way that undermines its intended purposes.
  • Rocco Ups His Offer: Mediacom Chairman's New Bid Accepted, MSO To Go Private (Multichannel News, 11/15)
    After two previous attempts to take the small market MSO private failed, Mediacom Communications chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso discovered the third time's the charm, as his $8.75 per share offer for the company was accepted Monday.
  • Taxpayers Union Seeks Broad Retrans Reform (Broadcasting & Cable, 11/15)
    The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has advised the Senate Communications Subcommittee not to focus on "rearranging the regulatory deck chairs" in its hearing this week on retransmission consent, but instead to look at more comprehensive reform.
  • Coming Soon: Sinclair, Time Warner Cable Retransmission Fight (FierceCable, 11/11)
    Look out, here comes another one. Retransmission talks between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) have reached the point where it's possible that Sinclair will shut down service for 33 stations it delivers in TWC and partner Bright House Networks franchise areas starting at the stroke of midnight New Year's Eve.

For more news, visit the Headlines Page on the ACA website.

  About ACA

Across this vast country, small and rural markets participate in the digital revolution by receiving video, broadband, and phone services from nearly 900 small and medium-sized independent operators represented by the American Cable Association (ACA).

ACA’s members -- cable, phone, and fiber-to-the-home operators and municipalities -- deliver affordable basic and advanced services to about 7.6 million households and businesses. ACA members operate in every state, offering high-definition television, next generation Internet access, and digital phone service.

Access to advanced communications is not a luxury but a critical necessity for consumers and companies, schools and hospitals. America’s economic prosperity in smaller markets and rural areas depends on the growth and success of ACA members, who believe a connected nation, is a united nation.

The ACA asks lawmakers and regulators to ensure fair treatment so that small and medium-sized independent operators may continue to supply affordable video, broadband, and phone services to Main Street America. Through active participation in the policymaking process, ACA members and leaders advocate for the interests of their customers, their companies, and their communities to help ensure the continued viability of their way of life in hometown America.

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