Opening Address by American Cable Association President and CEO Matt Polka at ACA’s 14th Annual Washington Summit
Washington, D.C., April 17, 2007 — "I am Matt Polka and I’m honored to be the president and CEO of your American Cable Association – connecting hometown America!
Retransmission consent abuse. The ban on integrated set-top boxes. The transition to digital television. To say our bases are loaded is an understatement. Yet like so many loyal sports fans, we start each season and every game with optimism. The fact that there are a record-breaking 300 attendees here today, up from 218 last year, inspires me, and I hope it inspires you, too!
Never before has independent cable had such an impressive roster of players to drive home their concerns to Congress … This Summit promises to be the best yet, and I thank each person in this room for taking the time to join us for such an important purpose. Your record-breaking attendance here today underscores the fact that you know how important it is for you and your business to be in the game here in Washington.
Looking back on this past year, I’d have to say we’re in the middle innings of a tough season with tough competitors. But we’ve been here before, and we’re in the game. We’re in the game here this week to say that the set-top box integration ban makes no sense for consumers who will be forced to pay three times as much or more for a box that will deliver even fewer digital services and will cripple the digital roll-out in this country by cable.
The big broadcast lobby out in Las Vegas this week calls us ‘cable monopolists’ and ‘discriminators against television broadcasters.’ Well, they may be right. We’ll discriminate everyday in favor of what’s right for our customers, while you [the NAB] continue to seek government advantage over the little guy.
So, why are we here today at this ACA Summit, fighting for our consumers?
Let me show you. Today in an ad in Communications Daily, here’s what the NAB said knowing you, our members, were coming to town to tell your customers’ stories:
‘This week members of the American Cable Association will be on Capitol Hill urging Congress to disrupt the retransmission consent process to favor cable operators. These negotiations, which are working as Congress intended, allow local broadcasters to fairly seek compensation for their programming, which is highly valued by consumers. But don’t take our word for it …in a January 30 interview with Multichannel News regarding altering the retransmission consent process, American Cable Association President Matt Polka said, ‘This is not something we can win on the academic merit and substance of our arguments.’
But it wasn’t a period at the end of my sentence – it was a comma! What did I say AFTER the comma? ‘We win on the strength of our political message and the recognition on the part of Congress that there is a consumer need to be addressed.’
So, why are we here? Because NAB didn’t tell Congress and consumers the whole story. A story that you, our ACA members, on behalf of your customers are here to tell to Washington. Here’s the real story you will tell to Washington:
• Retransmission consent is wrong, and it has nothing to do with a fair or free market, because government rules and market exclusivity stack the deck before we even get to the negotiating table. That’s not fair, and consumers all across the country have to pay for it everyday.
• A digital transition without a right to down-convert signals makes no sense because who will be harmed the most? Consumers.
• Government-mandated DTV carriage and multicast must-carry? What about earning that carriage with services consumers want, rather than asking Uncle Sam to mandate it? Haven’t consumers had to pay long enough for the spectrum they as taxpayers gave you for free anyway?
• And ACA members are monopolists? The only monopoly we’re familiar with is the one the broadcasters have from the government to keep out competition from their local markets. That’s no free market.
Just to show that ACA’s members are in the majors, your concerns and key issues received more media coverage than any year in ACA’s history. From USA Today and C-SPAN to cable publications like Multichannel News, The Bridge and CableFAX to city newspapers like the Cumberland Times, ACA’s issues received more than 19 million media impressions in 2006 and nearly 2.5 million impressions so far this year. These efforts helped to inform consumers and policymakers of how independent cable differs and how current and pending laws and regulations impact rural consumers.
In addition, ACA implemented several game plans to better inform consumers of the impact of key issues. The launch of sportschoicenow.com provided a fast and easy way for consumers to tell elected officials how they feel about the NFL Networks’ price discrimination in rural markets.
Another homerun was the success of the first annual Independent Show. We’re pleased to partner with the NCTC to develop and host the largest event dedicated exclusively to independent cable operators. This year, the Independent Show will be held in Monterey, California, from July 29 through August 1, and we hope to see you there.
I’d like to thank my friend and independent cable partner, Jeff Abbas, his board of directors and so many of his staff that are with us at this Summit for being here and for supporting our efforts. We know that together we are making a difference for independent cable. Thank you, Jeff!
One additional highlight from the last year is the fact that ACA’s Political Action Committee surpassed $50,000 in contributions. The ACA PAC makes contributions to the campaigns of elected officials in order to gain visibility for our cause. I applaud the efforts of David Keefe and the entire ACA PAC committee for its tireless efforts and success.
Like the race for the pennant, our year has been eventful to say the least! And each of you is helping to further our success by uniting to drive home independent cable’s concerns on Capitol Hill. But before we head to the Hill tomorrow, we have a great line up on deck."
About the American Cable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a national association of small, locally-based cable TV companies providing advanced broadband services primarily in rural markets. The Association represents smaller and medium-sized independent cable businesses through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C. ACA’s nearly 1,100 member companies serve approximately 8 million subscribers in all 50 states. For more information, visit www.americancable.org.