5Qs with ACA‘s DC-based vp, govt affairs Ross Lieberman
You’re ACA’s first man on the ground in D.C. How has being located in the nation’s capital helped further the group’s cause? Certainly having somebody that’s local makes me more accessible to address issues as they come up. Matt [Polka] and our staff have done a great job over the last 15 years in addressing the issues, but the time has come in terms of the growth of our association that having someone that can just be there to respond on short notice… was important for the ACA. What’s keeping you most busy these days? For small cable operators, the biggest issues now are their inability to provide choice and value to consumers. Their ability to purchase programming at fair prices, terms and conditions. At the FCC, there is the recent rulemaking on retransmission consent and program access… which looks at the wholesale programming market, which is particularly troublesome. Speaking of that proceeding, ACA’s suggestion that the FCC get involved on program bundling and tying matters didn’t set well with everyone. A few of your larger members even left over it. Has their departure been felt? We have over 1K members. The decision to file was fully supported by the vast majority of our members. While there were a few members that had concerns, those members were unique from the vast majority of small independent cable operators because of other business interests. It hasn’t been a problem for us, and if anything, we’ve gotten much support for the actions that we’re doing. 2008 is a retransmission election year. What are your predictions? Small cable operators are going to face a very challenging year. More and more broadcasters are asking for money, and the amounts they are asking for are far exceeding the amounts small operators have paid in the past. Often times, small cable operators are paying 2, 3 times more than what other larger operators are paying in the same market without indiscernible difference in the cost of delivering that service to the small operator. Who do you think will be our next president? Are you rooting one way? My guess is as good as anybody’s… I’ve played on both sides of the fence—I previously was with satellite, now working for the cable industry. So I’m open to either side and am just looking forward to seeing the results.