ACA Doubles Down On Objection To Gray-Raycom Deal

In reply comments filed, the association argues a bigger Gray means higher retrans fees
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WASHINGTON—The American Cable Association last week told the FCC that the agency cannot ignore the harm to consumers that will result from allowing the acquisition of Raycom Media by Gray Television.

In reply comments filed Sept. 21 with the FCC, ACA reiterated its contention that the acquisition will give Gray a presence in new markets, further consolidate local media ownership and set the stage for higher retransmission fees, which ultimately will lead to higher prices for consumers.

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ACA told the commission that Gray had not offered “a serious rebuttal” to the assertion that allowing the deal to move forward would result in higher retrans fees.

In its original comments filed with the agency, ACA argued that the commission must “consider this harm [higher consumer prices] in deciding whether allowing the transaction is in the public interest.”

ACA took issue with how Gray addressed higher retrans fees in its reply, where the station group contended the acquisition complies with the agency’s national audience cap limit.

“This is a red herring,” ACA said. Regardless of staying within the national cap, the transaction will lead to higher fees and consumer prices, ACA asserted.

ACA also rejected Gray’s contention that dealing with retransmission consent is more appropriate to a generalized docket or rulemaking, not station-specific assignment proceedings.

[Read:Gray,Raycom To Combine Creating Third Biggest Station Group]

Increasing consumer prices stemming from higher retrans fees “is not a ‘generalized’ question that the commission can address in its rule-making dockets: it is an adjudicative question about how the law applies to the specific facts of this transaction,” ACA said.

ACA also reiterated that an economic analysis by DISH of retrans fees as relates to the size of a station group is germane to the Gray acquisition of Raycom Media.

“DISH’s economic analysis is strong evidence that in the real world, ‘The larger the broadcast station group . . . the higher is the retransmission consent price paid by DISH,’” ACA said.

The full text of the ACA reply comments is available online.