ACA 'shocked and appalled' at FCC decision not to reform retrans regs

The American Cable Association lashed out at FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's announcement Thursday that his agency will not change rules governing broadcast retransmission licensing negotiations.

"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)," said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka, in a statement.  

With a protracted retrans stalemate keeping Dish Network customers in markets like Kansas City unable from seeing Major League Baseball's All-Star game earlier this week, Polka made rhetorical use of the occasion.

"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," he said.

On Thursday, Wheeler published a blog post, noting that the "totality of circumstances" test the FCC uses to judge whether negotiations between broadcasters and MVPDs are acted upon in good faith is plenty broad enough to serve its purpose.

"It is hard to get more inclusive than to review the 'totality of circumstances,'" Wheeler said. "To start picking and choosing, in part, could limit future inquiries. So, today I announce that we will not proceed at this time to adopt additional rules governing good faith negotiations for retransmission consent."

Last month, SNL Kagan once again revised its projections for broadcast retransmission fees upward, pegging the total licensing cost to U.S. pay-TV operators to reach $10.6 billion by 2020.

"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," Polka added. "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."

For more:
- read this ACA statement

Related articles:
Wheeler: FCC won't add to retrans regulation
Dish blacked out by 42 Tribune stations
Wheeler tips hand at siding with NAB on retrans reform
SNL Kagan revises projected 2020 retrans figure again, moves it up to $10.6B