NAB Offers Comments on Video Programming Distribution Competition

The NAB this week responded to complaints from cable companies, EchoStar and DirecTV about FCC retransmission consent rules, satellite significantly viewed rules and regulations relating to DBS coverage of broadcast TV digital signals in Alaska and Hawaii. These comments were filed in response to the FCC's Notice of Inquiry regarding the Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming.

In regards to the retransmission consent rules, the NAB said the commission "should reject claims that the current, well-established retransmission consent regime harms competition and the public interest. Rather, the commission should conclude, as it did last year, that the retransmission consent rules benefit 'both the broadcaster and the MVPD' by providing an equitable marketplace solution that substantially increases the value of MVPD systems and also helps ensure quality local programming reaches the largest possible audience."

The reply also said the FCC should reject arguments that higher cable prices are the result of retransmission consent negotiations.

The organization urged the FCC to reject complaints from EchoStar and DirecTV concerning FCC rules relating to carriage of significantly viewed stations by satellite carriers. The NAB noted that EchoStar's primary complaint that network affiliation agreements preclude significantly viewed stations from granting retransmission consent had been heard by the FCC before and repeatedly rejected. The group's position was that for the same reasons, the FCC should also reject DirecTV's complaints alleging that the FCC's "equivalent bandwidth" requirement and the requirement that a DBS subscriber receive a local network station's analog signal as a prerequisite to receiving an analog signal from a significantly viewed station carrying the same network has deterred DBS carriage of significantly viewed stations.

The reply said that DirecTV provided "no factual support of any kind" for its complaint that it is technically too difficult for them to comply with FCC's comparative bit rate approach, saying "equipment and technology already exist to permit satellite carriers to comply with the commission's comparative bit rate approach."

The NAB document rejected DirecTV's assertion that the requirement to carry all multicast and HD signals of each local broadcast station in Alaska and Hawaii would result in either the loss of some national channels from its line-up or a reduction in the number of markets where DirecTV can offer local-into-local service. The NAB demonstrated that carriage of the required number of DTV signals in Alaska and Hawaii required only 2.34 percent of the capacity available capacity DirecTV currently has to serve those two states, and noted that DirecTV's new Spaceway satellites were designed with the capability for serving both states.

The reply concluded, "For the reasons stated above, the commission should reject the repetitive and groundless claims by the coalition and other MVPD providers that the existing retransmission consent and program exclusivity rules are anti-competitive and unfairly disadvantage MVPDs. Rather, as the commission itself has recently found, these rules benefit broadcasters, MVPDs and consumers, and promote the commission's and Congress' localism and diversity goals. Furthermore, claims that retransmission consent, rather than an over-concentrated cable market has helped increase cable rates are not supported by any evidence and, indeed, are contradicted by several government studies."

For more information, including copies of filings from the DBS and cable companies, use the FCC Search for Filed Comments (ECFS) Web page and enter "06-189" in box 1, Proceeding. Thursday's list showed 94 records, including comments and reply comments from other broadcasters.