American Cable Association Chairman Steve Friedman kicked off the 17th annual ACA Washington, D.C., summit, saying the trade group is fully committed to seeking appropriate conditions on the Comcast-NBC Universal merger as well as fundamental changes to the broken retransmission consent regime put into place nearly two decades ago.
"Over the next year, ACA will play a leadership role in the fight for fairness and appropriate conditions on the Comcast-NBCU merger," Friedman said in a prepared statement. (For more, click here).
The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice are reviewing Comcast-NBCU’s $30 billion transaction. Many ACA members will compete head-to-head with Comcast-NBCU for subscribers, and nearly all ACA members will need to acquire cable, broadcast and online content services from this new media giant.
"The combination of NBC with Comcast’s cable plants will ignite expensive fights over access to broadcast and cable content and reduce the ability of pay-TV rivals to compete against Comcast both in traditional markets and online," Friedman said.
Friedman, who is COO of Wave Broadband in Kirkland, Washington, hit broadcasters hard for exploiting regulatory advantages and engaging in bad-faith bargaining to extract unfair and discriminatory cash payments from small cable distributors.
"After Disney yanked its ABC signal from 3 million cable customers in New York just hours before the Academy Awards, the world changed: Retransmission consent reform went from being an option to a necessity," said Friedman.
ACA is a member of a new coalition that has asked the FCC to overhaul retransmission consent rules for the first time since 1992. As the process at the FCC unfolds, ACA will seek rules that will prevent broadcasters from engaging in price discrimination that drives up the cost of broadcast content for consumers served by ACA members.
ACA will also urge the FCC to stop broadcasters from jointly negotiating retransmission consent for more than one station in a market, which is clearly anticompetitive and artificially drives up costs for operators and consumers, Friedman noted.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told the Senate Commerce Committee in March that he is concerned that retransmission consent rules are harming consumers who lose access to broadcast programming with little, if any, warning.
Last week, Genachowski told the National Association of Broadcasters that retransmission consent is leading to higher cable bills. (For more from NAB, click here).
ACA’s Chairman also said the trade group is pushing for the right of small cable providers to purchase reasonably priced HD set-top boxes, which will speed the conversion to digital networks and free up spectrum for broadband. ACA is also fighting to reform the pole attachment rules to ensure that ACA members are not unfairly charged to access poles.