ACA, indie programmers urge FCC to address 'forced bundling of unwanted channels'

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The American Cable Association and a group of independent programmers are urging the FCC to do something about “forced bundling” of channels.

"The record so far reveals the widespread agreement that the FCC must address forced bundling of unwanted channels to meaningfully aid diverse and independent programming, and the viewers who value such programming. Bundling is the principal concern not just of ACA's members, but also of the independent programmers themselves," said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka in a statement.

Representatives from MAVTV Motorsports Network, One America News Network and AWE and Ride TV, along with the ACA, voiced their concerns in an FCC filing.

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In the filing, the companies argue that bundled networks are insufficient in meeting diversity imperatives, largely because capacity constraints brought on by “forced bundling” can shut out smaller indie channels. 

In the news release, the ACA and the independent programmers say that if an MVPD seeks to carry desirable channels owned by the nine largest media groups, it will end up having to carry a minimum of 65 channels.

“This channel bundling often eliminates the possibility of MVPD carriage of independent programmers. Making things worse, the less-popular conglomerate channels often feature marathon runs of warmed-over content that once aired elsewhere, rather than original programming offered by independent channels,” the companies wrote.

The companies urged the FCC examine the negotiating tactics of broadcasters, which they say include aggressive bundling demands that allegedly violate a legal obligation to negotiate in good faith.

"At a minimum, the FCC should eliminate bundling from the list of conduct that is presumptively consistent with good faith conduct in broadcast carriage talks. This practice has real, anti-competitive implications, making it more difficult for channels not affiliated with a top-rated broadcast station to obtain carriage," Polka said.

RELATED: ACA, indie programmers tell FCC’s Pai to make channel unbundling a priority

The filing from the ACA and the indie programmers is the second in less than a month, pushing the FCC to act on bundling practices. The extra push on the part of lobbying groups like the ACA comes as new Commissioner Ajit Pai is still settling in and reconsidering many of the docketed issues before the FCC.

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