Record Reveals Widespread Support For Greater Electronic Communications Between MVPDs And Their Subscribers
PITTSBURGH, March 6, 2018 – Embracing reforms that should promote efficiency, transparency and verifiability, the American Cable Association has announced support for a plan that would allow TV station owners to use email to notify cable operators of their triennial carriage elections, subject to important safeguards. Reliance on email would supplant Federal Communications Commission rules requiring exclusive use of USPS certified mail.
“We support email delivery of TV station carriage elections because it can ease the burden on cable operators to process up to hundreds of such notices that they receive from broadcasters. Use of email to make carriage elections is clearly less burdensome and a reform ACA urges the FCC to adopt,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
In FCC reply comments filed March 5, ACA expressed support for proposals by NCTA: The Internet & Television Association and Verizon that would require TV stations to send electronic carriage notices to an email address designated by each multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD). To ensure that broadcast stations are aware of the correct email address to which they should send their notices, MVPDs would be required to post a dedicated email address in their online public inspection file.
Building on these proposals, ACA suggested that cable systems that are exempt from the FCC’s public inspection file rules could instead be required to post their dedicated email addresses to their Cable Operators and Licensing System (COALS) profile. ACA also proposed that broadcasters be required to copy an FCC-hosted email address on their electronic notices so that the FCC could confirm that stations have met their obligations to send completed notices to the correct email address in a timely fashion.
To ease some of the burdens on broadcasters, ACA also expressed support for NCTA’s proposal to allow broadcasters to send a single notice to each MVPD in a designated market area, rather than sending separate notices to each individual system, as currently required.
“ACA has previously expressed concerns that email delivery of carriage election notices could lead to uncertainty as to whether a broadcaster has met its obligations to send notices to MVPDs in a timely manner, but ACA believes this issue could be resolved by amending the carriage election rules, as proposed by NCTA and Verizon, to require broadcast stations to deliver their carriage election notices to an email address designated by the MVPD for such purpose, with a few additional modifications,” Polka said.
TV stations are required to make an election for mandatory carriage (must carry) or retransmission consent (negotiated carriage) every three years. As part of the election process, stations must notify every MVPD system on which is seeks carriage. If a TV station fails to elect retransmission consent before the deadline, the station will be carried for free pursuant to the FCC’s rules, making the election process an important business matter.
ACA objected to broadcaster proposals that stations be permitted to fulfill their notice obligations by posting their election notices in their online public inspection file. Rather than decreasing regulatory burdens, the broadcasters’ proposal would simply shift them to MVPDs, who would be forced to go searching for election notices.
ACA also objected to proposals that would change the cable carriage election default from must carry to retransmission consent, stating that a change in the default would unnecessarily insert uncertainty and confusion into a process that has existed for nearly 25 years.
In the reply comments, ACA also pointed out that there was widespread support for ACA’s positions that the FCC should allow for greater electronic communications between MVPDs and their subscribers, and that no commenters had objected to any of the FCC’s proposals.
ACA also noted that commenting parties generally agreed that electronic delivery of all subscriber notices should be allowed on an opt-out basis, and that the FCC should give MVPDs greater flexibility to post such notices on their websites and direct subscribers to those online notices, rather than send them to subscribers directly. The record also supports ACA’s position that two rules related to the compatibility of cable systems with outdate consumer equipment should be eliminated.
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 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/