FCC Blocks Joint Retrans Negotiations
The FCC voted today to generally bar broadcasters from negotiating retransmission consent deals for multiple TV stations in the same market.
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 Wheer 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.
NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton issued this statement: "It's important to note that broadcasters have engaged in thousands of successful retransmission consent negotiations with pay TV providers over the years. Never has a local TV station been found by the FCC to have negotiated in bad faith. We would also note that broadcasters are not responsible for higher pay TV bills. Pay TV companies have been raising rates more than twice the rate of inflation for the last 20 years, according to Consumer Reports. The notion that a punitive crackdown on local TV stations will lead to lower cable rates is simply not credible."
American Cable Association President-CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement on the commission’s action: “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.
NCTA President-CEO Michael Powell said in a statement: “ We … commend the FCC’s pro-consumer action to establish a clear framework for restricting independent, competing broadcasters in a local market from jointly negotiating retransmission consent agreements. As we have long maintained — and as the Department of Justice has confirmed — such coordinated behavior harms consumers by artificially inflating the cost of watching over-the-air broadcast stations on cable systems. By enforcing the ‘good faith’ provisions of the retransmission consent regime, the FCC’s sensible action will help protect consumers from anticompetitive marketplace practices.”