News

Small Ops Seek Retrans Curbs

6/12/2001 8:11 AM Eastern

Small cable operators are asking federal regulators to probe the
retransmission-consent practices of major broadcast networks that also own an
array of cable networks.

The American Cable Association -- which represents 900 operators with 7.5
million subscribers -- complained to the Federal Communications Commission that
the major networks are tying carriage of local TV stations to carriage of cable
networks they might not want to offer to their subscribers.

'It is our goal to show Congress and the FCC what enormous leverage
programmers and broadcasters apply to consumers and independent operators,
taking away choice and raising prices,' ACA president Matt Polka said in a
prepared statement.

In a June 8 filing, the ACA complained that ABC ties retransmission consent
to carriage of Disney Channel, SoapNet and other Disney cable networks. It added
that News Corp. does the same thing with Fox Sports Net, Fox News Channel, FX,
National Geographic Channel and Fox Health Channel.

Regarding NBC, the ACA said the network linked carriage of its
owned-and-operated stations to carriage of MSNBC and CNBC, as well as to payment
of an Olympic Games surcharge.

As a first step, the ACA said, the FCC should prohibit the broadcast networks
from making cable operators sign nondisclosure agreements in connection with
their retransmission-consent deals.

The association said it was also troubled that TV stations are evidently
surrendering their retransmission-consent rights to the networks' cable
divisions.

'As retransmission-consent rights rest solely with a commercial television
licensee, and not with the satellite programmer, this practice raises a
fundamental question: Who controls the licensee?' the ACA
said.