ACA Seeks Modifications to Broadcast Carriage Election Rules

PITTSBURGH—The American Cable Association has come out with recommendations to modify a proposal on the FCC’s broadcast carriage election rules made by the NAB and NCTA. ACA says that its proposed changes, filed in hope of amending the rules before they are adopted, are to help look out for smaller operators that could be negatively impacted by the rules.

The proposal from the FCC originally was on whether and how to update the procedures broadcasters take to send notice of their carriage election—either must-carry or retransmission consent—to cable operators every three years.

Under the NAB-NCTA proposal, and starting with the 2020 election cycle, broadcast stations would send a carriage election notice to cable operators only if their election changed from the previous cycle. If so, broadcasters would only need to send a single notice to each cable operator’s corporate headquarters, rather than to each individual cable system. The notices would be sent by email and posted in either the operator’s public inspection file or in an FCC database. Cable operators would be required to send an email response confirming receipt of the notice.

“ACA generally supports the NAB-NCTA plan, which includes some suggestions previously offered by ACA,” said Matthew M. Polka, ACA president and CEO, in a press release. “But other components of the proposal would impose burdens on small providers without any offsetting benefit. The last thing this proposal should do is impose new burdens on the smallest cable operators that operate in only a few markets. By adopting ACA’s modifications to the proposal, these concerns can be addressed.”

Specifically, ACA says that the new proposal would require cable operators to designate and post an email address to an FCC database and send confirmation emails to broadcasters that utilize it. ACA points out that larger operators with dozen of systems may find this beneficial, but for smaller operators with one or a few systems they argue the burden outweighs the benefit.

ACA has made three recommendations it believes would be beneficial to larger and smaller operators:

  • Broadcast stations that cannot identify a small system’s email address in the FCC database in time for the next election deadline (2020) should send notice to that system operator via certified mails, as currently required;
  • To not create regulatory disparity, if DBS providers can choose to receive election notices from broadcasters by certified mail, then cable operators that prefer to continue receiving notices by certified mail should be able to do so as well; and
  • The FCC should move forward with adopting comparable changes to rules that require cable operators to send notices to broadcasters via certified mail.

For ACA’s official comments to the proposal, click here (opens in new tab).