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NAB Tells FCC to Leave Retrans Alone

Broadast Group Says System is Working 10/10/2012 1:17 PM Eastern

The National Association of Broadcasters weighed in Wednesday to correct what it called factual and legal inaccuracies offered up by some multichannel video programming distributors in the FCC's request for input on its next annual status of video competition report.

NAB says the retransmission consent regime is working fine and increasing the quantity, quality and diversity of programming.

In reply comments, NAB said it would not be in the public interest to get rid of the network nonduplication or syndicated exclusivity rules, or to suspend them during retrans impasses. The FCC offered up that suspension as a possible change to its enforcement of the rules, but has taken no action on that proposal, now more than a year old.

NAB said that without those rules, which prevent MVPDs from importing duplicative signals from distant markets, broadcasters would lack the economic base to support local news and information, including during emergencies.

"[L]imiting broadcasters' ability to enter into and/or enforce exclusive contracts would jeopardize stations' advertising revenues because the lack of program exclusivity in a market makes television stations less attractive to advertisers," said NAB. "Without sufficient advertising revenue streams, local stations cannot afford to invest in valued informational and entertainment programming. Both local stations and their viewers would be severely harmed if MVPDs can undermine stations' exclusivity rights by importing distant stations' signals."

Broadcasters also took aim at MVPD suggestions that the FCC mandate interim carriage or outside arbitration during retrans impasses, calling both illegal. "As the FCC has previously concluded," said NAB, "the agency does not have the authority to implement such changes to the system of retransmission consent under applicable law."

Lastly, NAB said that the FCC should not prevent retrans negotiations involving more than one station. MVPDs have argued that broadcasters are using joint negotiations to skirt FCC local ownership rules.

"The fact that some broadcasters are engaged in joint negotiations can reduce transaction costs and generate other efficiencies," said NAB. Besides, it said, "broadcasters are frequently negotiating with MVPDs that have significant national and regional footprints." NAB also says that joint negotiations actually result in fewer impasses.

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