ACA To FCC: Block Blackouts, Require True-Ups

Suggests Since FCC Rules Prevent Blackouts During Broadcaster Sweeps, it Should Do So More Broadly for Consumers
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American Cable Association president Matthew Polka Thursday asked the FCC to adopt a rule mandating carriage during retrans impasses, saying the commission prevents blackouts that disadvantage broadcasters, so it should certainly do so when they hurt consumers.

In a letter to FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, Polka pointed out that commission rules prohibit retrans blackouts during sweeps periods (when broadcast ad rates are set), "yet there are no comparable rules that protect consumers from losing access to broadcast signals during periods of time particularly important to them, such as immediately before and during marquee broadcast events."

He proposed what he said was a narrowly tailored solution, which is that the FCC adopt "a rule mandating that broadcasters and MVPDs continue to offer a broadcast station’s signal to consumers after an existing retransmission consent agreement expires and while the terms of a new agreement are pending resolution of a dispute. Under this proposed rule, the parties’ existing retransmission consent agreement would automatically be extended past its expiration date, and an MVPD would continue to pay the broadcaster for retransmission consent rights per such contract."

When a deal is done, the price would apply retroactively, with a "true-up" to the price if necessary.