PITTSBURGH, July 29, 2016 – American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement on the Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau’s release of a first of its kind Order and Consent Decree resolving an investigation into Sinclair Broadcast Group’s violations of its retransmission consent “good faith” negotiation obligations by engaging in prohibited joint negotiations on an immense scale. The Media Bureau investigation also resolved complaints concerning Sinclair infractions related to licensing issues. Sinclair has agreed to make a $9.5 million settlement payment to the U.S. Treasury and will be subject to a compliance plan aimed at ensuring it complies with the FCC’s good faith rules in the future.
“ACA commends the FCC’s Media Bureau for taking strong, first-ever action against Sinclair — a bad actor in retransmission consent negotiations by anyone’s definition. But the widespread duress felt by independent cable operators as a result of broken and outdated retransmission consent rules exploited by TV stations across the country is far from over. This is especially true in the wake of Chairman Wheeler’s recent decision not to recommend changes to the FCC’s good faith rules in a proceeding Congress directed the FCC to initiate in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR). Notwithstanding today’s action, Chairman Wheeler should reconsider his decision that additional FCC guidance through the good faith rules is unneeded at this time.
“The Media Bureau deserves great credit for probing Sinclair’s egregious conduct on its own, giving confidence to smaller, capital-constrained multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) that they won’t have to hire expensive lawyers to vindicate their rights under the statute against a good-faith recidivist like Sinclair. Given the FCC’s reluctance to affirm interim carriage during the pendency of retransmission consent disputes, FCC-initiated actions against TV stations are all the more necessary for smaller MVPDs. These providers suffer serious competitive harm when TV stations black out their signals, typically before marquee viewing events and catching many viewers by surprise.
“In our view, the Media Bureau has sent an important signal to TV station owners that violations of the law will not be tolerated and significant penalties await those who failed to appreciate the fair warning given in today’s proportional action against Sinclair.”
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 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/