NAB Defends Joint Retrans Negotiations

Takes Aim at ACA in FCC Filing

The National Association of Broadcasters is firing back at claims by the American Cable Association that broadcasters collectively negotiating retrans in a market is consumer unfriendly.

While the FCC's two-year-old retrans proposals are unlikely to be acted on anytime soon, the commission has raised the issue of joint station agreements -- which often include joint retrans negotiations -- in other proceedings, including its media ownership and program access rulemakings.

ACA has long argued that the joint agreements are a way for broadcasters to skirt local ownership caps and give them undue market power in carriage agreements that wind up translating to higher cable bills for their customers.

In a filing in the retrans docket at the FCC, NAB said it was countering "erroneous contentions" by cable TV interests in recent submissions, then goes on to cite several ACA filings.

NAB asserts that cable operators are misleading the commission about the impact of retrans and with claims of improper broadcast bargaining, are abusing their market power and are the ones hurting the public.

NAB points to a Multichannel News study to argue that it is the price of cable programming channel, not broadcast stations, that drive up cable prices and that for government to step in to reduce the fees cable ops pay for TV stations would only inflate their profits. It suggests the only way to ensure that would be for the government to also impose cable rate regs as well.