Not surprisingly, the American Cable Association has voiced strong support for the FCC’s decision not to lift – and, in fact, strengthen – longstanding rules limiting the reach of station owners in individual markets.
"This is a positive step that the FCC is taking to ensure compliance with its local television ownership rules and improve the functioning of the retransmission consent marketplace,” said Matthew Polka, ACA president and CEO, in a statement.
The FCC Commission’s Democratic majority carried a 3-2 vote in favor of the NPRM, which also closed a loophole that allowed station owners to circumvent rules restricting ownership of two top-four stations in a single market simply by swapping network affiliations among their assets.
“This abusive practice permits the stations' owner to negotiate retransmission consent for two top-four rated stations at the same time, thus driving up prices and harming consumers,” Polka added. “Such joint negotiations among two non-commonly owned stations in a single market have been prohibited for precisely the same reason. ACA is pleased to see that the FCC is taking action to address the retransmission consent marketplace through its rulemaking powers and encourages it to continue to look for ways to improve the function of its rules.”
FCC commissioners voted on the NPRM on August 12. The NPRM’s text was released by the agency earlier this week.
The rules also upheld longstanding restrictions on the ability of station owners to control both a newspaper and a leading station in individual markets.
While the cable industry is understandably supportive of rules that strengthen its bargaining position in broadcast retransmission talks, Republican lawmakers were not as pleased.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), for example, said the agency “overreacted” and that the NPRM is “likely to harm the objectives of smaller media outlets eager to compete."
“Today, the FCC continues its recent tradition of advancing unnecessary and burdensome regulations on a partisan basis, while ignoring new technologies and market realities, with the likely outcome of harming competition,” Goodlatte added.