The American Cable Association members of the FCC’s Media Bureau and an advisor to Commissioner Robert McDowell seeking to limit the ability of stations in JSAs or SSAs from negotiating retransmission consent deals in tandem.
ACA’s representatives noted that retransmission fees are rising and are expected to continue to rise, and that they rise even faster when two network-affiliated stations in the same market are able to team up for a negotiation.
In a summary of the meeting, ACA said, “We stressed that coordinated retransmission consent negotiations by non-commonly owned same market television stations is a media ownership issue because it directly implicates local television competition. The Commission’s media ownership rules are intended, inter alia, to preserve and promote competition among broadcast media outlets that receive free use of valuable public spectrum in exchange for serving local communities. Current local television ownership rules restrict the common ownership of two top four rated stations in a single market. However, local television stations that cannot lawfully merge under the Commission’s local television rules are nonetheless coordinating their retransmission consent negotiations with MVPDs. They are doing so through both a variety of formal agreements and the use of various informal practices, all of which reduce local competition, evidenced by the fact that the participating stations are able to raise prices above levels achievable through individual negotiations.”
They ask that the FCC put “a decisive end” to the practice, requiring all non-co-owned stations to fend for themselves, and to further prevent non-co-owned stations from sharing information pertinent to retransmission negotiations.