Policy

ACA Meets With Martin Aide On A La Carte

7/18/2008 2:38 PM Eastern

Washington—In a recent meeting with a senior aide to Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, top officials from the American Cable Association backed rules to require cable programmers to charge the same monthly fee to all cable companies regardless of size.

ACA president Matt Polka, joined by ACA outside attorneys and five other senior ACA officials, backed what ACA called “the national pricing plan” in a meeting held Wednesday with Martin's acting legal adviser for media issues, Elizabeth Andrion.

ACA also tossed its support behind Martin's effort to impose wholesale a la carte mandates on cable programmers. Those rules would require a programmer to offer each programming service on a stand-alone basis rather than in a package on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

“While ACA reiterated support for the unbundling proposal submitted in its comments, ACA expressed support for the national pricing plan,” ACA said in two-page document filed at the FCC on Friday.

Earlier in the year, Martin floated a plan in which cable operators could exclude from expanded basic any cable network that demanded a wholesale price of at least 75 cents per month, per subscriber, a rule that could impact ESPN, the Disney Channel, many regional sports networks, and possibly Fox News Channel.

ACA has also been urging the FCC to require TV stations to conduct retransmission consent negotiations separate and apart from negotiations related to the carriage of affiliated cable networks.

In Friday's FCC filing, ACA signaled to Andrion that the 75-cent plan was not acceptable in its current form.

“The proposed ‘75-cent opt-out’ plan was also discussed, and ACA indicated adjustments would be necessary to the proposed plan to address more comprehensively the harms resulting from current wholesale programming and retransmission consent practices,” ACA said.

ACA's session with Andrion (which occurred for some in person and for others over the phone) came just three working days after Martin told reporters that no one in the FCC was working on the wholesale a la carte issue and that he personally did not know when he wanted to bring any rules to a vote.

A senior Martin aide said Friday that the ACA-Andrion session was just a meeting. Polka drew a different lesson from the meeting.

“Our take is that the FCC is seriously reviewing the wholesale unbundling issue and all potential solutions that have been offered to date. There is no indication that this issue is off of the table. Quite the contrary,” Polka said.

Included in the meeting were: Patrick Knorr, ACA chairman; Steve Friedman, ACA vice chairman; Martin Brophy, ACA executive committee member; Ross J. Lieberman, ACA vice president of government affairs; Steve Weed, ACA executive committee member; Christopher C. Cinnamon, Cinnamon Mueller, counsel for ACA; Jeremy M. Kissel, Cinnamon Mueller, counsel for ACA.

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