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ATVA: Retrans Disputes Top Problems of Broadcast Competition

(Image credit: ATVA)

WASHINGTON—When it comes to issues with the broadcast competition landscape, the American Television Alliance (ATVA) thinks broadcasters should be looking at their own actions.

In comments filed to the FCC for its biennial competition report, ATVA highlighted four key areas that they believe have negatively affected the competition of the marketplace for multichannel video programming distributor carriage of TV broadcast signals:

  • Consolidation by broadcasters despite FCC rules they argue prohibit such actions, leading to reduced over-the-air broadcast voices;
  • Increased rate of blackouts; 
  • Increased retransmission fees of MVPDs; and 
  • Smaller MVPDs exiting marketplace as a result 

This is counter to what the NAB is arguing, which focuses on the increased competition from digital and other sources and the need for fewer/modernized regulations.

ATVA says that broadcasters have been exploiting “loopholes” when it comes to local media ownership of stations so they can control multiple network feeds in a single market. This consolidation has in turn led disputes over the increase of retransmission rates and to a record number of blackouts of local programming in 2019. All of these factor into the exit of smaller MVPDs like Google Fiber, BELD Internet, Three Rivers Communications and RTC Communications essentially exiting the cable business, ATVA claims.

“ATVA has suggested a variety of solutions to these problems in various proceedings,” the organization’s comments read. “We have, for example, urged the commission to find that certain broadcaster conduct violates the ‘totality of the circumstances’ test. We have also urged the commission to look at broadcasters’ use of loopholes to evade the FCC’s local ownership rules. Here, we urge the Office of Economics and Analysis—and the commission more broadly—to consider these issues and potential solutions as it drafts this year’s marketplace competition report.”

ATVA members include ACA Connects, AT&T, Charter, Dish, Verizon, Mediacom and USTelecom.

ATVA’s complete comments are available online.