Earlier this morning, the American Cable Association (ACA) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make sure certain conditions are in place prior to any merger between Comcast and NBC-Universal (NBCU).
Those conditions include a ban on “using programming and distribution dominance to undermine competition by greatly escalating the price of cable and broadcast channels that market rivals, including ACA members, must purchase to remain in business,” the group said.
During a conference call, ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said, "The Comcast-NBCU joint venture is the most serious threat to the media ecosystem in at least a decade, justifying regulatory intervention to prevent the media giant from harming competitors and their subscribers through the exercise of undue market power obtained as a result of the deal.”
He continued, “Without the adoption of ACA’s proposed conditions, Comcast-NBCU will have unmatched leverage in traditional and online media markets to harm competitive cable and satellite operators by driving up their programming costs to very troublesome levels. With the risks so high, the FCC must not fail to protect consumers."
As such, here are the conditions ACA proposes (valid for nine years):
>>General Conditions Applicable To All Pay-TV Providers
– Comcast-NBCU is required to sell NBC stations and regional sports networks (RSNs) on a stand-alone basis, meaning each NBC station and RSN cannot be bundled with carriage for any other video programming network.
– FCC program access rules shall apply to all Comcast-NBCU TV stations as well as all satellite- and terrestrially delivered RSNs and national cable networks for distribution on any delivery platform, including online and mobile.
– Dispute resolution through baseball-style commercial arbitration shall include a right to program carriage until the matter is resolved.
>>Special Conditions For Smaller Pay-TV Providers
– Comcast-NBCU is prohibited from requiring any pay-TV provider with 125,000 video subscribers or less locally to pay a fee for an NBC station or RSN that is 5-percent greater than the lowest fee paid by any other local pay-TV distributor — including Comcast itself — for the market’s NBC signal or the area’s RSN.
– Comcast-NBCU officials are required to certify to the FCC on an annual basis that all eligible retransmission consent and RSN contracts comply with the 5% rule.
– Dispute resolution for smaller pay-TV providers through a newly designed, lower-priced commercial arbitration system, different from baseball-style, shall include a right to program carriage until the matter is resolved.
– Comcast-NBCU shall negotiate in good faith with bargaining agents, including the National Cable Television Cooperative, and dispute resolution through baseball-style commercial arbitration shall be available to bargaining agents. Comcast-NBCU could not refuse to negotiate with a bargaining agent on behalf of all its principals or members.
ACA already has said that, by combining assets, the merged Comcast-NBCU (with no restrictions) “will be in a position to dominate the media landscape in markets across the country if left unchecked by meaningful government protections to ensure access to NBC’s 10 owned-and-operated TV stations, Comcast’s nine regional sports networks (RSNs), and Comcast-NBCU’s suite of category-leading national cable networks on fair and reasonable terms. Comcast is already the largest multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) and the largest residential broadband access provider in the country.”