Indie Cable Nets Form Coalition

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About a dozen independent cable networks have formed their own trade group, which is already asking the Federal Communications Commission for reforms to curb program-tying practices.

The indie cable channels said Thursday that they have created the National Association of Independent Networks (NAIN), whose founding members include WealthTV, HDNet, the Hispanic Information & Telecommunications Network and The Horror Channel.

The coalition has raised about $500,000, and plans to hire a full-time president for the group, based in Washington.

Some of the participating networks–which represent a diverse group of national programmers, from sports channels to HDTV channels and minority-focused networks–met with FCC chairman Kevin Martin Wednesday, along with members of the American Cable Association, to express their support for a more competitive television programming environment.

NAIN members also visited with various members of Congress, advocating more programming competition and fair cable and satellite access consideration.

The indie networks have informally been getting together for a number of years, but decided to formally create a trade group after meeting at The Cable Show in New Orleans last month, said WealthTV president Charles Herring (pictured), who is a founding member of HAIN.

NAIN is lobbying for a more competitive environment in cable programming, which it claims will benefit consumers with higher quality programming, lower cable prices and more diversity, according to Herring.

In its discussion with Martin this week, Herring said NAIN spoke out against the practice called “program tying,” where large media companies require cable operators to carry less-desired channels in order to receive more popular ones. The practice of “program tying” consumes bandwidth, limiting cable companies from considering other programming choices and stifling competition, NAIN alleges.

The independent programmers are also urging action to improve enforcement of the 1992 Cable Act, and streamline the FCC’s rules that protect independent networks from illegal program-carriage decisions.

On Thursday the ACA, which also opposes program tying, put out a press release in support of NAIN.

“Forcing cable operators to carry channels that their subscribers don’t want or watch is unreasonable,” ACA president Matthew Polka said in a prepared statement. “But for smaller operators it is untenable. Tying consumes valuable bandwidth and reduces the amount of diverse and minority programming operators are able to offer their consumers...We are happy to have NAIN and its members on our side in this fight, and look forward to bringing choice and competition to the programming marketplace.”

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