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ACA Appalled FCC Won’t Confront Broadcasters’ Retransmission Consent Abuse

PITTSBURGH, July 14, 2016 -  ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler posted a blog saying the agency would decline to update its "good faith" bargaining requirements designed to prevent TV stations from harming consumers in their retransmission consent negotiations with multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs):

"ACA is shocked and appalled that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who has placed such urgency in reducing consumer confusion in the marketplace, has decided to leave unchanged the retransmission consent regime that a bipartisan Congress asked the agency to review in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR).  To do so in the face of historic numbers of broadcast blackouts and clear signs of market failure and widespread consumer harm is stunning. The Chairman's decision ignores the plight of millions of consumers served by MVPDs who have repeatedly been victimized by broadcasters' heavy-handed bargaining tactics, such as pulling signals prior to a marquee event like the Oscars or baseball's All-Star game.

"In the end, the Chairman's decision will serve no purpose other than to perpetuate and most likely escalate negotiating schemes that will result in consumer harm on a colossal scale by ignoring tangible evidence that the retransmission consent regime is broken, outdated, and contributing to the skyrocketing increase in retransmission consent payments and a record number of TV-station initiated signal blackouts. 

"After years of solid evidence that small operators and the consumers they serve are harmed by the negotiating power of large broadcast cartels, it is stunning to see such disregard to their plight.  That the Chairman saw absolutely no reason to address what Congress had clearly seen as an issue that bore deep inspection and updating leaves me at a complete loss.

"As for next steps, I will always hope that the Chairman and the Commission will see the harm that comes from a broken retransmission consent system that favors one entity over another.  Only through enlightened policy changes can the current scheme of ever-rising pricing and bundling be mitigated.

"Never have consumers paid so high price for ‘free TV.' According to an American Television Alliance (ATVA) analysis, TV stations have caused 600 blackouts since 2010 and since 2005, retransmission consent fees have risen 22,400%. SNL Kagan recently updated its projections to show that total retransmission consent payments will hit $10.29 billion in 2021, up from $7.21 billion in 2016."

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 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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