Monday, December 14, 2009

American cable Asso. Attacks TV LMAs

The American Cable Association is calling for an FCC investigation into local marketing agreements (LMAs) between television stations, particularly when the operating partner in such an agreement handles MVPD retransmission consent negotiations for all of the stations."

ACA believes the FCC should now determine whether LMAs are skirting national policy intended to promote local broadcast competition," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said. "LMAs set the price for retransmission consent for one broadcaster and its direct horizontal competitor, leading to higher retransmission consent costs for consumers."

ACA says that the rules generally prohibit owning two or more television stations in a market to protect consumers and advertisers from anticompetitive behavior, and that LMAs are used to get around the prohibition.

"We hope the FCC takes this opportunity to fix a broken retransmission consent process that permits a broadcaster like Sinclair to pull its signals from cable systems while a retransmission consent grievance is being reviewed by the FCC, inflicting harm on consumers who expect uninterrupted access to local news, weather and time-sensitive information such as school closings, traffic delays and missing-child alerts," Polka said.

Polka concluded, "ACA has long advocated for retransmission consent reform because of the vulnerability of ACA members and their customers in retransmission consent negotiations due to a lack of market power. As the FCC noted when News Corp. took effective control of DirecTV, small and medium-sized cable operators are particularly vulnerable to the withdrawal of `must have' programming."


Rainbow pushes anti-Sinclair proceedings

The Rainbow PUSH coalition has been on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s case since 1998, saying that its operation of stations licensed to other companies constituted “the largest broadcast ownership fraud scheme in history.”

Now it is going to bat for cable operator Mediacom in its retrans battle with Sinclair.David Honig put on his attorney’s hat to represent Rainbow in its latest filing, apart from his leadership role with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Act.

Honig noted that numerous challenges to Sinclair license renewals, and to relationships with stations in certain markets creating de facto duopolies, have gone unaddressed by the FCC.

He cited evidence the Rainbow believes warrants a full FCC investigation into Sinclair’s fitness to be a licensee.Rainbow contends that Sinclair has de facto control over Cunningham Broadcasting Stations, and that it has “brazenly violated basic broadcast disclosure requirements and federal campaign report spending rules” in a variety of ways.

And that’s where Mediacom comes in: “Mediacom’s recent retransmission complaint against Sinclair again raises the issues of Sinclair’s character, fair dealing, and questionable control over broadcast television stations. As Mediacom’s complaint illustrates, Sinclair has refused to engage in good faith negotiations and has made anticompetitive demands that violate the Commission’s policies favoring competition.

Specifically, Sinclair has used its bottleneck control over multiple stations in a market as a bargaining chip.”Mediacom notes that in many markets, Sinclair controls two of the top four stations, a combination that would have been prohibited had Michael Powell’s relaxation of television duopoly rules survived the Prometheus case after Powell’s 2003 dereg attempt.

A pdf file of the document can be read at .

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