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FCC Comments regarding the Petition for Rulemaking to Amend the Commission's Rules Governing Retransmission Consent

Submission Date: 
05/18/2010
 
 
SUMMARY

Retransmission consent increasingly means spiraling prices and bitter public showdowns with threatened or actual withdrawal of local network signals. Each outcome harms consumers. For smaller operators, two additional aspects of the current retransmission consent regime are of particular concern and need to be addressed:

  • Price discrimination against smaller MVPDs; and
  • Joint negotiations involving multiple Big 4 affiliates in a single market.

Retransmission consent price discrimination. Smaller MVPDs pay retransmission consent fees more than twice as high as larger MVPDs for the same broadcast signals. No meaningful cost-based justification exists for this disparity; it simply reflects the vast difference in bargaining power between a smaller MVPD and a big 4 affiliate (i.e., ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX). Pervasive price discrimination against smaller MVPDs raises costs for smaller-market consumers and impedes broadband deployment - important public interest concerns the Commission must protect.

Joint negotiating of retransmission consent. Broadcasters increasingly use sharing agreements or duopolies to jointly negotiate retransmission consent for multiple Big 4 affiliates in the same market. All available evidence suggests that joint control or ownership of multiple Big 4 affiliates in a single DMA results in significantly higher retransmission consent fees, resulting in higher costs for consumers and hindering broadband deployment.

Remedies. The rulemaking proposed in the Petition for Rulemaking will provide the Commission the record it needs to examine the magnitude and harms of retransmission consent price discrimination, as well as how joint negotiations, both by control and ownership, result in higher costs for consumers, providing the basis to fashion appropriate remedies to address the harms.

Legal authority. The Commission has ample statutory authority under Section 325 of the Communications Act to address the concerns raised in the Petition for Rulemaking, as well as ACA's concerns about retransmission consent price discrimination and broadcasters' use of joint negotiations.

The Commission should launch the rulemaking requested in the Petition for Rulemaking and in these Comments. 

AttachmentSize
2010 05 18 ACA Comments MB Docket 10-71 FINAL as filed.pdf298.55 KB

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