ACA attacks cable retrans rules

The president of the American Cable Association said the cable television business “hangs in the balance” of current retransmission consent rules.

Speaking at the North Central Cable Show last week in Minneapolis, Matthew M. Polka said the cable industry needs to collectively seek to change these rules. He focused on skyrocketing retransmission fees, rising cable costs and the need for immediate FCC or congressional action.

Earnings reported for 2007 include an increase of more than $54 million in retransmission fees for Nexstar (26 percent ), Hearst-Argyle (21 percent), LIN (107 percent), Belo (17.25 percent), and Sinclair (133 percent) — increases disproportionately levied against small and independent cable providers, but nonetheless affecting consumers and cable operators nationwide.

“Our industry is at a crossroads,” Polka said. “Retransmission consent is a government-created rule that must be changed by government for the sake of our customers; we are at the mercy of the broadcast industry that benefits from government-sanctioned advantage. Fees are up more than 20 percent in the past year alone, and cable operators and their customers are paying the price.

“Your business hangs in the balance,” said Polka. “Change will only come about if the cable industry collectively works together to reform retransmission consent.”

Also, last week, the ACA filed reply comments with the FCC detailing the extent of the burden and adverse impact that dual-carriage requirements will have on small cable systems and the communities they serve. ACA’s filing addresses the NAB “unreasonable” opposition of ACA’s March 2 request for a small operator exemption from burdensome dual must-carry requirements.