NAB To FCC: 'Deny' Cable Ops More Leverage In Retrans Negotiations


The National Association of Broadcasters, which now includes all the major networks, joined by the major network affiliate associations, asked the Federal Communications Commission to "deny" giving cable operators and other pay TV providers more leverage in retrans negotiations, saying to do so would make TV stations a non-factor in the competitive marketplace.
NAB and company filed comments with the FCC Tuesday, the deadline for initial input to the agency on a proposal by a cadre of major cable operators -- excluding Comcast, which is looking to acquire NBC Universal, the Peacock network and its station group -- that the commission make changes. Those would include outside arbitration, standstill agreements and even unbundling station carriage negotiations from co-owned cable channels, though there is less solidarity on that point.
The broadcasters argue that impasses are rare when calculated by percentage of viewing hour. They say that arbitration would drain the resources of smaller stations, compromising their ability to deliver on the public service obligations as licensees.
In short, they argue, the proposed changes "would have devastating consequences for competition, for the program services provided by local stations, and, more importantly, for the nation's television viewers."
As it stands, they say, retrans payments account for less than 1% of an average $99 monthly cable bill, while local stations are "the most popular programming services." They argue that cable rates are driven not by payments to broadcasters, but by high market shares that allow operators to charge higher prices. "These fees are
but a fraction of the fair market value for the quality and attractiveness of the service broadcasters provide," according to NAB.