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FCC Votes to Prevent Joint Retransmission Negotiations

fcc sealThe FCC has voted to bar broadcasters from negotiating retransmission deals for multiple television stations in the same market, TVNewsCheck reports:

Under the new regulation adopted, two or more separately owned Top-4 broadcasters in the same market would be prohibited from negotiating retrans deals altogether.

During the meeting, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that Congress gave broadcasters the right to charge for their programming and that’s not changing. “All we’re doing today,” he said, “is leveling the negotiating table.”

On a related action, the FCC also proposed a further notice of rulemaking seeking comment on whether to eliminate the agency’s network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules, regulations that make it easier for stations to protect the exclusivity of their programming in their markets.

Statements from the American Television Alliance and the American Cable Association are after the jump.

ATVA:

We applaud the FCC for taking steps to curtail the problem of coordinated retransmission consent negotiations by top-4 broadcasters.  These dubious, anti-competitive arrangements have allowed broadcasters to collude and threaten blackouts of two or more top stations in a market.  Today’s ruling will help defend consumers around the country from blackouts and higher prices.

ACA statement:

ACA salutes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler for leading the effort to put teeth into the regulations that require broadcasters to negotiate retransmission consent with cable and satellite TV providers in good faith. Adoption of today’s order extracts from a broadcaster’s bite one of several practices that most obviously harm consumers and competition.  ACA members are ecstatic that the FCC is finally banning coordinated retransmission consent negotiation between two separately owned, top-rated stations in the same market.

In the end, ACA really can’t say it any better than Chairman Wheeler did in his March 6 post on the FCC blog: ‘Joint Retransmission Negotiations:  Consumers Lose When Broadcasters Band Together,’ noting that retransmission consent fees shot up 8,600% from 2005 to 2012.

ACA and its members spent the balance of four years urging the FCC to ban the widespread and increasingly common practice of retransmission consent collusion by broadcasters.  At significant risk of broadcaster retaliation, ACA members documented more than two dozen broadcasters engaging in this practice with 98 Big Four-affiliated stations in more than 20% of all television markets.  Available evidence shows that TV station collusion increases the average price of retransmission consent by at least 18%, leading to higher prices for consumers — an economic reality that the FCC understands quite well.

ACA’s tireless effort to end this precise practice has been justly rewarded with the relief the FCC adopted today.

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