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ACA Summit: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Says Collusive Retransmission Practices Were “Perverting” Congressional Intent

PITTSBURGH, April 2, 2014 - Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler called the FCC's recent decision to prohibit collusive broadcaster retransmission consent negotiations a "self-evident step." Wheeler made his remarks yesterday before hundreds of independent cable operators attending the American Cable Association's 21st Summit in Washington, D.C.

On the eve of ACA's Summit, the FCC approved new regulations prohibiting two or more separately owned top-four broadcasters in the same market from banding to negotiate retransmission consent agreements. Wheeler first circulated the order against such collusive retransmission consent tactics in early March. The new rules, which take effect at the end of the month, will help protect multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), including independent cable operators, from this anti-competitive practice in upcoming negotiations.

When asked by ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka why Wheeler had so quickly addressed retransmission consent negotiations when other FCC chairs had considered the issue to be "radioactive," Wheeler laughingly said, "It was the eloquence of your arguments," adding "You got quoted a lot, didn't you," in the FCC's order.

"Retransmission consent is the law of the land," Wheeler explained. "Congress has spoken, period. The way retrans was being implemented, however, moved it off the concept that Congress had developed, which was one-on-one negotiations."

Instead broadcasters were getting together to exert collective leverage on the cable operator, Wheeler explained.  "All we said was, ‘Hey, the negotiating table has to be level.' Congress said there is retrans. Congress said it is one-on-one. Let's make sure that's the way things work."

"I think it was a self-evident step," Wheeler added. "Things had developed that were perverting the goals that Congress had laid out for retransmission and were having an impact on consumers."

In government filings, economic reports, and statements, the independent cable community spent nearly four years drawing attention to the widespread and increasing practice of TV station collusion, a scheme designed to drive up the fees paid by cable TV providers for retransmission consent rights and in the process, injure millions of consumers served by ACA Member companies and others.

The ACA Summit, taking place April 1-3 at the Grand Hyatt, 1000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C, is unique in that it highlights the special role that independent cable operators play in providing world class communications services to consumers in hometown America.

As cable's premier event for smaller, independent and competitive cable operators, the ACA Summit is widely considered to be the best opportunity for small business owners that provide advanced communications services to advocate for change in direct exchanges with Obama Administration officials, Capitol Hill lawmakers and senior FCC personnel.

The 21st ACA Summit extends a long tradition as the most important forum nationally for honoring the critical role played by independent cable operators that serve rural and remote regions of the country that are typically much more costly to build out with advanced technology.

The theme of this year's summit - Our Time Is NOW! - underscores the important legislative and regulatory goals ACA and its Members are pursuing on Capitol Hill and at the FCC.

Please visit the ACA Summit 2014 website by clicking here:  ACA Summit.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 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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