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ACA Chairman Steve Friedman Calls On FCC To Adopt New Retransmission Consent Rules In Time For Fall Negotiations

In Farewell Remarks, Departing Trade Group Leader Seeks Ban On Collusive Bargaining By Local TV Stations

SAN FRANCISCO, July 26, 2011 - In a farewell address to independent cable operators, American Cable Association Chairman Steve Friedman urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt new retransmission consent rules along lines recommended by the independent cable community and within a suitable timeframe that will allow these helpful rules to influence positively thousands of TV station carriage negotiations that must be concluded by the end of the year.

"I call on the FCC to conclude the rulemaking in time for new rules to govern the next round of retransmission consent talks that begins in October," Friedman said. "This new retrans round involves the renewal of thousands of carriage contracts between ACA members and local TV stations. These so-called  `negotiations' have the potential to produce more of the same: Massive threats of signal blackouts affecting millions of consumers across hundreds of our markets."

Friedman's comments came Monday in remarks to hundreds of ACA members gathered for the 6th Independent Show, an important industry forum with a public policy focus that is annually co-hosted and jointly organized by ACA and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), a Lenexa, Kansas-based group that purchases programming and equipment for U.S. cable operators.

Friedman, Chief Operating Officer of Wave Broadband, was elected ACA Chairman in 2008 and re-elected in 2010. His tenure officially concluded at ACA's third quarter Board meeting held here July 24.  He will continue to serve on the ACA Board of Directors. Colleen Abdoulah, Chairwoman & CEO of WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone, was appointed ACA Chairwoman by the ACA Board.

"I'll miss the job greatly, but I believe it is time to hand the gavel to a new leader and return to my seat on the ACA Board. I know I'll be leaving the association in wonderful hands under our new Chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah. She deserves special accolades for her support in identifying the harms associated with the Comcast-NBCU merger when she testified before three U.S. Congressional Committees in 2009,"  Friedman said.

In his valedictory remarks, Friedman stressed the need for the FCC to confront broadcaster price fixing in retransmission consent.

"Intervention is desperately needed, requiring the FCC to ban independently owned TV stations in the same market from engaging in collusive, coordinated bargaining," Friedman said. "Forcing TV stations in the same market to bargain on their own is crucial because we know ACA members pay less for retransmission consent when they negotiate with one station at a time as opposed to two, and that the harm is further compounded when the two are affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX."

Friedman noted that the independent cable community is increasingly losing access to distant network TV signals that consumers are entitled to view on cable systems under longstanding FCC rules.

"The FCC also must stop all TV stations and the Big Four networks from using retrans as a weapon to prevent ACA members from carrying distant network signals that we have a legal right to provide under clearly defined FCC rules that go back decades," Friedman said.

Because it looms so large for independent cable operators, retransmission consent will remain a key issue for ACA in the years ahead, Friedman said.

"Retransmission consent reform has and will continue to be our number one issue and I don't expect that to change if the FCC and Congress fail to embrace a pro-consumer, pro-free market agenda. The broken and costly retrans regime affects every ACA member and their customers in profound ways, justifying ACA's time and expense in pursuing a reform agenda," Friedman said.

Away from the issue of retransmission consent reform, ACA has been playing a constructive role in helping to shape the outcome of many additional challenging issues, Friedman noted.

"We've made progress in such areas as updated set-top box rules, stable pole attachment fees, and acceptable open Internet rules.  Our blossoming reputation has allowed ACA to build closer ties with state regulators like the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and gain deeper involvement with issue-specific coalitions," Friedman said.

He said he expects ACA to be deeply engaged as the FCC concludes work on reforming Universal Service and implementing the CALM Act's mandates regarding loud TV commercials.

Lastly, Friedman commending NCTC on the appointment of Rich Fickle as its new President and Chief Executive Officer.

"I know that Rich will strengthen the bonds between our two organizations, especially in crafting creative solutions that will result in a constructive dialogue between cable programming suppliers and ACA members responsible for providing essential services to rural America, services such as TV Everywhere and related VOD products, and that we will build our collaborative efforts to negotiate programming agreements to the benefit of all of our mutual members," Friedman said.

Friedman also thanked interim NCTC CEO Tom Gleason for leading the organization during the leadership transition.

"A special shoutout belongs to Tom Gleason. Where would we be without his selfless devotion to the NCTC as he stepped into the void at a key time in the NCTC's life," Friedman said.

About the American Cable Association

Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.6 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/


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