American Cable Association seeks FCC inquiry on retransmission consent practices

The American Cable Association (ACA) has asked the FCC to open an inquiry into the retransmission consent practices of network owners and major broadcast affiliate groups.

The ACA, representing nearly 1,000 independent cable operators, wants an investigation of the retransmission consent tying arrangements that network owners and major affiliate groups force on small market and rural cable systems.

“These media conglomerates have turned retransmission consent into a 1-way conversation driven by national corporate strategies to increase satellite programming revenues,” the ACA said. “These tying arrangements harm smaller cable companies and their customers by increasing basic cable costs and decreasing programming choices.”

Because “the upcoming round of retransmission consent is imminent” and media consolidation is accelerating, the ACA said its members “fear the worst.” Network owners have achieved unbridled ability to use retransmission consent to force additional programming and higher costs on small cable companies and consumers, the group said.

“The old saying is that 'power corrupts," said ACA president Matthew M. Polka. “Unfortunately, this statement also accurately describes how media conglomerates today have twisted retransmission consent practices to benefit only themselves. But it’s time for this to stop.”

The ACA Oct.1 filing occurred on the same day as television broadcasters’ deadline for electing either must-carry or entering retransmission-consent negotiations with local cable franchises for the next cycle, which begins Jan. 1, 2003.

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