PITTSBURGH, June 9,2008-In advance of tomorrow’s House Subcommittee on Telecommunications andthe Internet hearing to review the status of the digital television transition,the American Cable Association (ACA) alerted Members of Congress to the overlooked issue of how upcoming retransmission consent negotiations could causesignificant consumer confusion around the February 2009 transition.
In a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ed Markey andRanking Member Rep. Cliff Stearns, ACA urged an active monitoring of allupcoming retransmission consent negotiations, particularly involving small andmedium-sized cable operators, to ensure that broadcasters are not forcingoperators to drop signals in the months before and after the digital transition,resulting in additional transition-related consumer confusion.
Existing retransmission consent agreements between cableoperators and broadcasters are generally set to expire by December 31, 2008,and independent cable operators are expecting to face difficult and potentiallycontentious negotiations with broadcasters. Even amid the upcoming digital television transition, broadcasters areexpected to force small and medium-sized operators to drop their signals iftheir discriminatory prices, terms, and conditions are not accepted. This practice will cause massconfusion in the months before and after the transition because consumers willnot know whether they have lost channels are a result of the DTV transition, anunfulfilled personal responsibility such as buying the wrong converter box, or anotherissue entirely.
“The potential impact that retransmission consentnegotiations may have on the DTV transition threatens to cause significantconfusion for tens of millions of cable households,” said ACA President andChief Executive Officer Matthew M. Polka. “Congress has not focused on this issue thus far, but we are confidentthat their attention now will help broadcasters understand that pulling signalsduring upcoming retransmission consent negotiations as a ploy to coercediscriminatory terms from small and medium-sized cable operators threatens allof our collective efforts to ensure a successful transition.”
During retransmission consent negotiations, broadcasterscommonly leverage their power to demand unreasonable prices, terms andconditions and frequently charge small cable operators per subscriber fees thatare up to 20 percent higher than larger operators for the same signals withoutany rational justification. When cableoperators fight for their customers and refuse to accept thesedisproportionately higher fees that consumers ultimately bear, broadcasterspull their signals.
To view the ACA letter to Rep. Markey and Rep. Stearns of theHouse Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, please clickhere.
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About the AmericanCable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is atrade organization representing 1,100 smaller and medium-sized, independentcable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cablesubscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets acrossAmerica. Through active participation inthe regulatory and legislative process in Washington,D.C., ACA’s members work togetherto advance the interests of their customers and ensure the futurecompetitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit www.americancable.org.