ACA Urges FCC To Keep Local TV Owner Caps


On Dec. 2, 2016, the NAB petitioned the FCC to reconsider its decision to maintain its current caps on local TV ownership, which were fortified in its quadrennial review of ownership rules.

Nexstar Media Group also filed a petition for reconsideration of the FCC’s ruling not to adjust its local TV ownership caps.

Now, the American Cable Association has responded by filing a 25-page objection with the FCC, in which the cable TV industry advocacy group lobbied the Commission to reject calls from TV stations to reconsider the decision.

Matt Polka
Matthew Polka

If it were to amend its local TV ownership caps, the ACA believes this would give broadcasters “even greater retransmission consent bargaining leverage to extract even higher fees from or inflict blackouts on consumers served by multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).”

In its FCC Opposition to Reconsideration, ACA stood by its opposition of efforts by TV stations to gain the right to own more than one top-four rated station in a market. It also believes a TV company should not be able to own two stations in any local market in the U.S. — including markets with just a handful of stations.

Under current FCC rules, an entity may own only one top-four station in a local market. However, the FCC’s “duopoly rule” allows ownership of two stations in a market if at least eight independently owned commercial and non-commercial television stations remain in the market, post-transaction.

“If successful, TV station owners will have succeeded in dismantling two bedrock media ownership restrictions that will trigger significant broadcast industry consolidation in every local market in the country,” the ACA said.

“In considering the broadcasters’ request, the FCC must take account of the fact that permitting ownership of more than one top-four rated station in a market, and duopoly ownership in every market — regardless of the number of local television ‘voices’ in the market– would exacerbate the harms to the public interest of an already-broken marketplace for retransmission consent,” ACA President/ CEO Matthew M. Polka said. “The FCC should not reduce broadcast station competition for retransmission consent fees or harm consumers and MVPDs through even higher prices and more harmful blackouts.”

The ACA cites a recent report that shows that since 2007, retransmission consent fees have risen from $250 million to $7.7 billion annually.

“SNL Kagan predicts that retransmission consent fees could nearly double in the next five years, to $11.6 billion,” Polka added.

The Pittsburgh-based ACA represents some 750 smaller and medium-sized independent cable companies.

The deadline for filing a reply was Tuesday (1/24).

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has vocalized his opposition to keeping the local limits, as has fellow Republican Michael O’Rielly.

Thus, the ACA’s urging could fall on deaf ears with the Commission’s majority.