The American Cable Association has criticized the National Association of Broadcasters for what the cable lobbying org says is the incorrect description of its position on privately negotiated exclusivity arrangements between broadcasters and cable operators.
"ACA believes is it important to point out that NAB mistakes ACA's position in its blog -- namely, that the FCC should outlaw exclusivity arrangements entered into through private contract altogether," ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka in a statement. "ACA's position has always been that should the FCC repeal the exclusivity rules, it should seek to protect traditionally offered out-of-market stations, like significantly viewed stations, at the same time, and does not need to limit other types of exclusivity arrangements."
This latest round of retrans-related back-and-forth was instigated earlier this week when FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake reiterated the position of agency Chairman Tom Wheeler and called for the removal of "exclusivity" rules. The mandates restrict pay-TV cable operators from making a deal with an out-of-market network affiliate in the event that a local one is blocked out due to a retransmission-related dispute.
In calling for removal of these rules, Lake said that most deals between operators and broadcasters have clauses governing exclusivity. Regulation on this matter, he said, is outdated and unnecessary.
Rick Kaplan, NAB executive VP of legal and regulator affairs, called the FCC's proposal to end network and syndicated exclusivity rules "misguided." In a blog post, Kaplan also noted that, "Even the American Cable Association (ACA) only supports the change insofar as it leads to the Commission outlawing exclusive broadcaster arrangements altogether."
This, of course, is the line that set the ACA in motion on its response.
In fact, ACA took an even further rhetorical leap, suggesting that all NAB statements be checked for veracity from this point forward.
"Such a blatant mistake warrants policymakers who read the NAB blog to fact-check all of NAB's claims in the blog to make sure they are not also mischaracterized," Polka said.
And back and forth it continues to go. The NAB, in turn, responded again, quoting an ACA letter from August 28, in which the org called for the FCC to "adopt a new rule that would prohibit, as a per se good faith violation, any agreements – legally-binding or otherwise – that have the effect of limiting the ability of a station to grant retransmission consent to an MVPD."
The follow-up NAB statement said, "Facts are stubborn things. Instead of engaging in doublespeak, if ACA simply reviewed the record it would realize that it or its lawyers absolutely have asked the commission to bar all forms of exclusivity contracts. ACA is either suffering from short-term memory loss or presenting disingenuous arguments to the commission"
- read this NAB blog post
FCC Media Bureau chief Bill Lake: Time to end 'outdated' exclusivity rules
FCC's Wheeler thrills pay-TV operators, proposes removal of exclusivity rules from retrans negotiations
FCC votes to review definition of good-faith broadcast retransmission negotiations
UPDATE: This story was updated on Sept. 25 to include additional commentary from the NAB.