ACA Threatens Reconsideration Petition on ATSC 3.0 Authorization

WASHINGTON—The American Cable Association today advised the Federal Communications Commission it will keep a watchful eye on broadcasters to find instances during retransmission negotiations in which broadcasters demand its members carry their ATSC 3.0 signals and promised to file a Petition for Reconsideration of the FCC order authorizing next-gen OTA TV transmission if they do.

In an ex parte letter sent, ACA SVP Ross Lieberman noted that over the next month “a substantial majority” of the association’s small and mid-sized cable operators will be renegotiating retransmission agreements. The ACA has 30 days from when the Order is published in the Federal Register to submit the petition to reconsider and will file the reconsideration petition if ATSC 3.0 carriage is a demand, he wrote.

“We hope, however, that broadcasters will show some measure of restraint, at least while the period for reconsideration remains pending,” Lieberman said in the letter.

During the proceeding authorizing ATSC 3.0 transmission, the ACA and the American Television Alliance (ATA) contended that negotiations for first-time ATSC 3.0 carriage should remain separate from retransmission negotiations. Doing so would “make the ATSC 3.0 transition truly ‘voluntary,’” he wrote.

However, Lieberman wrote there is “evidence showing that broadcasters are already [emphasis Lieberman’s] seeking ATSC 3.0 carriage” in retransmission negotiations.

The ACA senior vice president pointed to an Oct. 25 ex parte letter filed with the agency by Michael Nilsson, an attorney with the Washington D.C. law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. In that letter, Nilsson wrote: “The ATVA representatives each reported that broadcasters already seek to require carriage of ATSC 3.0 in recent retransmission consent negotiations.”

Further, Nilsson noted that during an Oct. 23 meeting with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr, Chip McDonald of Cable ONE and Melisa Ordonez of Dish said “that nearly all broadcaster contract offers received in recent months have sought ATSC 3.0 carriage.”

In his letter, Liebermann referenced a statement from FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly that an attempt by broadcasters to make the transition to ATSC 3.0 involuntary “’could violate the obligation for broadcasters to negotiate in good faith.’’

Liebermann wrote : “Because the Commission chose not to adopt new rules preventing forced carriage of ATSC 3.0, broadcasters may now feel more liberated to make such demands,” particularly of ACA members, which are typically smaller and “susceptible to broadcast coercion….”

The NAB declined to comment.

For a comprehensive list of TV Technology’s ATSC 3.0 coverage, see our ATSC3 silo.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.