Ed Munson, VP and GM of KPHO-TV in Phoenix, plans to carry the National Association of Broadcasters' message about who it says is to blame for retrans blackouts to the House Communications Subcommittee Wednesday, according to prepared testimony for a Sept. 11 video regulation hearing.
Munson plans to tell the committee that it is not coincidence that three companies, Time Warner Cable, Dish and DirecTV, have been involved in nearly nine out of 10 retrans disputes over the past two years. In a Judiciary subcommittee hearing Tuesday on satellite regulation. NAB witness Gerry Waldron made the same point.
"It is not a coincidence that these are the companies pressing Congress and the FCC most aggressively to tip the marketplace for broadcast signals in their favor," said Munson in his testimony. "Their tactics are straight out of the “How to Win in Washington” playbook – create a “crisis,” yell loudly about the crisis and then ask Congress to fix the crisis in your favor...Congress should resist this cynical ploy by cable and satellite companies and refuse to intervene in a free marketplace."
Dish has pointed out that together they represent a large number of subs, and that they are also in a position to stand up to what they say are broadcasters collusive and consumer-unfriendly retrans negotiation tactics.
Also like Waldron, Munson plans to talk up broadcasters role as local provider of news and weather and emergency information, all at no cost to anyone with an antenna.
"Broadcasting is still the fundamental foundation of video distribution in the United States," said Munson. "Cable operators built their businesses on the backs of broadcasters and for years have raised their subscription prices well beyond the rate of inflation. And at the end of the day, for families that would rather pay for food than CNN, local broadcast stations provide a high-quality news and entertainment alternative at the ultimate bargain price -- free."
MVPDs have been calling for the government to step in and mandate some retrans reforms including preventing station blackouts or allowing for importing distant affiliate TV station signals if MVPDs can't reach a deal with a local affiliate, something the FCC has to date been reluctant to tackle on its own.
Munson counted the ways in which broadcasters were already disproportionately regulated relative to MVPDs. That includes indecency regs, ownership caps that cable does not share, the online public file requirement--and its sensitive political pricing info mandate. And while he said broadcasters take issue with some of those as outdated and burdensome, "we embrace the fact that broadcasting is a different kind of service than the others represented on this panel."