Looking Out for the Little Guy


The following is an edited excerpt of Federal Communications
Commission member Mignon Clyburn’s remarks to the ACA
Summit in Washington, D.C., April 12.

Everyone here today, along with
the rest of the 900-plus ACA members, is part of
the lifeblood of the American economy. As I find
myself saying more and more lately, because it’s
such an important fact, small businesses are the
little engines that actually run this country.

Granted, a number of you are not so small, but
many of the companies in this room reach places
and people that are at times taken for granted.
Those places suffer more deeply than others
from being just poor. They’re often affected by
rural poverty, which cuts even more deeply on a
“have not” level. I know people who live in these areas. They
are proud. They play with the hand they’ve been dealt. And
they work hard day in and day out.

Rural residents deserve high-speed broadband, HDTV,
next-generation Internet and phone service just as much
as the most well-to-do Manhattanite. You all are the links
to these things, which are becoming ever more essential in
the current economic and job-seeking climates, and I implore
you to keep doing what you can to maintain reasonable
costs for those subscribers and small business owners.

Just before Christmas, we got an interesting stocking stuffer in the form of the Comcast/[NBC Universal] acquisition
order for consideration. We spent the next month
reviewing it, and debating it, and arguing over it, and arguing
over it some more.

We determined that operators like you needed certain
protections in place and available remedies to utilize. These
remedies will be in place for seven years and, ladies and gentlemen,
you can count on me to be a cop on the beat with
regard to monitoring the compliance of those conditions.

While that provision will hopefully assist you as you
negotiate with the newly-merged entity,
uncertainty remains regarding another method
of negotiation that you all endure. So many
people believe the retransmission-consent
system, which was conceived by Congress in
1992, is broken, and in hearing those cries, we
passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

It considers potential changes that would
offer clearer guidance about good-faith
negotiating requirements and the aims of
“per se” bad-faith provisions. Additionally,
it strengthens notice requirements for subs,
and asks for comment on the FCC’s network
non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules.

I fully understand the intent of the retrans rules, and
that market forces should be allowed to work. But I am
on the lookout for the consumers in this country, and
if the market isn’t working, we need to consider taking
appropriate steps.

Another proceeding that ACA has its eyes on is the
Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (or
“CALM”) Act, which the FCC received from Congress
earlier this year. It directs us to adopt regulations controlling
the volume of commercials shown by broadcast
stations, satellite systems, and multichannel video providers,
and to ensure that ads air at a volume no louder
than the programs in which they appear.

The FCC must make sure that these things do not have
a disproportionate impact on smaller businesses, and
be mindful of the financial consequences that can result
from technical mandates.