Outcome Likely Outgrowth Of Greedy U.S. TV Stations’ Request To USTR That Canadian And Mexican MVPD Subscribers Pay Them, Too
PITTSBURGH, October 16, 2017 – The American Cable Association, in a letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), called on the U.S. government to protect U.S. consumers by not giving Canadian and Mexican broadcasters the right to charge American MVPDs retransmission consent fees. ACA’s request comes as greedy U.S. TV station owners try to convince the USTR to insert new language into NAFTA allowing them to collect fees from Canada- and Mexico- based multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) that seek to carry their signals.
ACA, joining a letter (attached) signed by multiple U.S.-based MVPDs or their representatives, said adoption of the language sought by the National Association of Broadcasters would likely result in a reciprocal requirement that would force U.S.-based MVPDs to pay retransmission consent fees to Canadian and Mexican broadcasters. The end result, the letter said, would be that – given the well-documented harms associated with retransmission consent – U.S., Canadian, and Mexican pay-TV consumers would suffer harm.
“At a time when U.S. consumers are suffering from rising pay TV bills due to greedy U.S. broadcasters’ excessive retransmission consent demands, the USTR should not exacerbate the problem by giving Canadian and Mexican broadcasters a right to charge these consumers as well,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
Co-signing the letter on behalf of hundreds of MVPDs were ACA and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. Individual companies that signed were: Fibercast Cable Communications; Charter Communications; Sjoberg’s Inc.; Wyandotte Cable; Bee Line Cable; Mediacom Communications; Buckeye Broadband; Trans-Video Cable TV; Cable Services; Cable Communications of Willsboro; Atlantic Broadband; Stowe Cable; WaveDivision Holdings; Waitsfield-Fayston Telephone Co.; Hood Canal Communications; Click! Network; and WOW!
NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) is a 1994 accord signed by by Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Retransmission consent provisions in the U.S. Communications Act do not cover U.S. MVPDs that retransmit Canadian and Mexican broadcast signals. Canada law has no TV signal retransmission consent regime.
The ACA-signed letter stressed to the USTR that if NAB were to get its way on this issue, the result will further increase the cost of MVPD service for American consumers as MVPDs pass through the new fees; cause the removal from channel lineups of Canadian and Mexican stations that have long been a part of the viewing experience in American communities located near the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico border; or the removal of other channels from channel lineups to offset the new retransmission consent costs.
“As if demanding TV ransom from U.S. MVPDs wasn’t enough, now the NAB and its ‘free TV’ cashcasters want international retrans rights too,” Polka said. “The bottom line is that NAB and its broadcaster members want more leverage to charge consumers for retransmission consent, no matter where those consumers are.”
The letter explained that there is no justification for pursuing any changes to NAFTA which would require the Canadian government to amend its existing TV content compensation rules. The carriage of TV stations in U.S. and Canada involve obligations under communications and copyright laws that are both complex and reflect the cultural priorities of both the U.S. and Canada, notwithstanding NAB’s efforts to reduce these facts to gross simplifications. While the letter focuses more on the impact on Canadian law, these same issues and concerns apply equally to efforts to change Mexican law.
“The NAB is proposing a bad idea, one that will cause consumers to pay more for service, lose access to channels/programs traditionally available to them or some combination of the two. The USTR must ignore the NAB’s egregious self-serving claims that the revenue derived from their proposal will improve the quality of broadcast TV when we know the billions in fees they have fleeced from U.S consumers have been used to fund stock buybacks, dividends, and TV station acquisitions,” Polka said.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 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/