Addessing a major policy issue under debate on Capitol Hill, American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka urged key House and Senate lawmakers to maintain regulatory parity between cable operators and satellite TV providers in the event Congress decides to adopt new broadcast carriage rules designed to expand choice and consumer access to state-related news, weather reports and other vital information.
"Over the years, Congress has promoted multichannel video competition by allowing satellite providers to offer local broadcast signals initially and later significantly viewed stations in a comparable manner to cable. Giving DirecTV and Dish Network the right to now offer new broadcast services while denying small cable operators the same right would be an unfair departure from precedent and harmful to the competitive regulatory balance that Congress has been attempting to perfect for more than two decades," Polka said.
Writing on behalf of ACA's 900 member companies that serve 7 million customers residing in all 50 states, Polka outlined his concerns in the Senate letter to Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and the panel's senior Republican, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas). Polka also sent his letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the panel's ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
On the House side, Polka sent the letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif) and Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), the most senior Republican on the committee. The other House recipients were Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and the Subcommittee's ranking Republican, Rep. Cliff Stearns (Fl.)
Polka's letters focused on various proposals on Capitol Hill that would allow satellite TV carriers to offer their subscribers access to TV stations located outside of their local market but based within the same state. Access to those in-state, out-of-market broadcasters would enhance the ability of satellite consumers to stay current with important developments within their own states, whether the subject is politics, general news, weather, government, crop reports or sports results.
Due to federal exclusivity rules and other contractual restrictions imposed by the broadcast networks, cable operators are often prohibited from offering in-state broadcast stations to their customers.
"ACA supports the effort to help consumers obtain wider access to in-state broadcast services that are not available today under current regulations. However, ACA strongly disagrees with the idea that small, independent cable operators should not be allowed to provide these enhanced broadcast services but satellite TV providers can," Polka said. "Regulatory parity, which has served consumers so well for so long, should not be abandoned."