ACA Warns Against Forcing ATSC 3.0 Transition via Retrans

Group says it will not hesitate to file petition for reconsideration in cases of coercion

The American Cable Association has fired a warning shot across broadcasters' bow, warning that the group would file a petition for reconsideration of the ATSC 3.0 framework order if broadcasters use it to force carriage of those new next-gen signals.

Related: FCC Launches Next-Gen Broadcast TV Standard

The ACA and cable operators had wanted the FCC to prevent broadcasters from being able to condition carriage of their current ATSC 1.0 signals to carriage of the new ATSC 3.0 signals, but the FCC declined to do so.

According to an ex parte letter to the FCC, ACA noted that commissioner Michael O'Rielly's statement on the ATSC 3.0 vote suggested that if broadcasters attempted to make the transition involuntary by tying it to retrans, they could violate the FCC's requirement of good-faith negotiations.

O'Rielly said he would be watching for concrete examples of that, and ACA said it would be, too, as retrans renewals come due at the end of the year.

"Should broadcasters insist on ATSC 3.0 carriage in their negotiations with ACA members, the 'concrete examples' of which Commissioner O’Rielly spoke may become available sooner rather than later," ACA said, adding: "If we learn of such examples, we will not hesitate to present these facts to the Commission in a Petition for Reconsideration of the Order filed under section 1.429 of the Commission’s rules."

Related: NAB: ATSC 3.0 Will Reinvent Free TV

The ACA has 30 days after the ATSC 3.0 order, which was voted at the Nov. 16 meeting, is published in the Federal Register, which should be anytime now.

The association pointed out that hundreds of its members will be negotiating thousands of agreements over the next several weeks.