ACA Presses For Parity On Station Signal Importation


The American Cable Association continues to press its case for parity when it comes to importing TV station signals into markets that cross state lines.

ACA, whose members were in Washington this week at their annual summit to make that case and others on Capitol Hill, is circulating a letter it hopes legislators will sign on to, according to a copy supplied to Multichannel News by a third party.

The letter, addressed to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, asks that if the Congress decides to give satellite operators the ability to important adjacent market signals into so-called split markets as a way to deliver home-state stations, it should allow cable operators to do the same. Both House and Senate must reauthorize the satellite distant-signal license by the end of the year, or it will expire.

Saying it would be consumer-friendly to "allow consumers to receive out-of-market, but in-state broadcast signals when in-state signals aren't available," the letter adds that "giving satellite TV companies the right to offer enhanced

local broadcast service without giving cable companies the same rights would now significantly disrupt the competitive video market Congress has helped create."

ACA president Matt Polka made the same point to reporters in a press conference at the ACA Summit in Washington

earlier this week.

ACA confirmed the letter was a draft from the association:"All customers, whether satellite or cable, should benefit from being able to receive the enhanced local broadcast services that are being considered as part of the [Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act] reauthorization," ACA vice president of communications Ted Hearn said. "Small cable operators shared this view with their members of Congress as part of their Washington, DC fly-in on Wednesday, and received very positive feedback from all the elected officials who represent their customers. ACA is optimistic that Congress will not leave cable customers behind."

For its part, satellite company DirecTV is "in Harmony" with ACA's position, DirecTV spokesman Andrew Reinsdorf told MCN. "We fully support a platform-neutral approach," he said.

Both ACA and DirecTV support a bill from Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas that would allow multichannel video providers, cable as well as satellite, to retransmit in-state TV signals in split markets.

House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has said he wanted to keep the reathorization process as free as possible of ancillary issues like retransmission consent reform given that the reauthorization of the SHVERA must pass by year's end, but he has not ruled out including cable in any market fixes.

Broadcasters argue that, unless it is carefully crafted, a change allowing either satellite or cable to import

adjacent-market signals would be de facto retrans reform because it could allow MVPDs to play one in-state station off another.

Polka has said he does not think the change would shift the balance of retransmission-consent power, however.

While network affiliate associations have strongly oppsed the change, in an interview with B&C, NAB Presdient David Rehr said he thought there would be a way to target a split-market fix sufficiently so that it would not necessarily affect retrans.

There is a political motive for some kind of fix, since the issue affects politicians trying to make sure their local TV buys reach all their constitutents.

"If they enacted that there can be no adjacent-market signal unless the in-market signal is already provided -- with a stipulation that it could never be used to alter the retransmission consent agreements going forward -- then I don't think you would have [retrans reform by proxy], Rehr said.. "We are looking for some pro-active solution to the issues in a few congressional districts without upsetting network non-duplication and exclusivity."