"Media conglomerates Disney, Hearst and NBCU, which will take three-way control of Lifetime through their interest in A&E, use their market power to force small cable operators to pay unfair and unreasonable wholesale rates and distribute channels that their customers do not want included in their programming packages. A&E's takeover of Lifetime -- call it Project Wrongway -- will further enhance the power of media giants to discriminate against video consumers served by ACA members in thousands of rural communities," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
ACA has urged the Federal Communications Commission to rectify market abuses in the wholesale cable programming market, which is controlled by a handful of media conglomerates that effectively dictate how the country's most popular broadcast and cable programming is consumed in millions of TV households.
"Media giants coerce smaller operators into accepting prices, terms, and conditions -- including obligations to put channels like A&E, Lifetime, History Channel and others on their systems' most basic tiers -- which force consumers to pay for programming that they rarely watch. With the Lifetime Networks about to become part of A&E, consumers shouldn't be surprised to see Lifetime's less popular channels, like Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime Real Women, migrating from digital tiers to basic cable, and see their monthly cable bills going up as a result," Polka added.
"These suspect methods lead to higher cable rates and steal channel capacity that could instead be used to launch independent cable channels, make broadband upgrades and roll out digital phone service, all highly sought by consumers," Polka said. "The FCC has an open rulemaking (07-198) on this matter, and the agency should address these consumer issues."
Polka added that Lifetime is one of the few national cable networks to not reach a distribution agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative, an organization that negotiates master contracts with programmers and equipment vendors on behalf of ACA members and other cable operators.
"A&E, which has a contract with NCTC, should use its new ownership of Lifetime to ensure that Lifetime signs its first agreement with NCTC," Polka said.
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