PITTSBURGH, December 20, 2013 – American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement regarding the approval of the Gannett-Belo TV stations transaction by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
“ACA is pleased that the DOJ has blocked Gannett from entering into a sham arrangement in the St. Louis market that would allow it effectively to control two top-rated stations affiliated with the Big 4 networks. The DOJ’s actions this week should prevent Gannett from being able to coordinate its retransmission consent negotiations with the station formerly owned by Belo in that market, thereby protecting consumers from the harmful effects of this anticompetitive practice.
“Moreover, ACA is pleased that the FCC’s Media Bureau has fired a warning flare putting the broadcasters on notice with respect to the standard it employs in reviewing broadcaster transactions. It has clarified that going forward broadcasters should no longer simply rely on an expectation that conformity of the elements of the transaction to the FCC’s rules and to other transactions previously approved alone will warrant approval. The FCC has reiterated that the ultimate standard is conformity with the public interest
That is, the days of waving through transactions based on the template of past transactions are over. The Media Bureau has reminded broadcasters that Congress’ express statutory command that license transfers satisfy the “public interest, convenience, and necessity” is an important component in its review that encompasses the economic effects of, and incentives created by, a proposed transaction taken as a whole and its consistency with the FCC’s policies in favor of competition, diversity, and localism.
“ACA has raised concerns with the FCC about multiple broadcast deals that are likely to result in coordinated retransmission consent negotiations, as well as in several currently pending rulemakings, which the FCC notes in its Gannett-Belo Order. ACA’s concerns also are a topic of discussion among lawmakers in Congress with respect to the STELA reauthorization. We will continue to work with lawmakers and policymakers on this matter until all broadcasters cease engaging in this collusive conduct.”
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/