True Negotiations Only a Myth for Atlantic Telephone Membership Cooperative
If Retransmission Consent involved true negotiations, then Atlantic Telephone Membership Cooperative’s Jody Heustess wouldn’t be bargaining about hypotheticals. But alas, that’s what December talks brought for ATMC. According to Heustess, broadcast conglomerates asked ATMC to partake in negotiations for channels that the company didn’t even own yet but could perhaps own one day in the future. The absurdities didn’t stop there. Heustess describes an interaction he had with a broadcaster’s attorney. The attorney insisted that a specific channel be included in negotiations even though ATMC’s customers didn’t want it. Heustess asked what programs were on the disputed channel. The attorney couldn’t tell him. He had no idea.
Heustess soon learned that this kind of inexplicable bargaining was status quo for retransmission talks. When ATMC learned about price spikes their consumers would face in the new year, they asked for an explanation. Why is a channel worth 100 percent more on January 1st than it is on December 31st? ATMC wanted, at the very least, an explanation to relay to their customers. Once again, the response was vague and insufficient: That’s the new market rate.
To Heustess, the root of the problem is clear. In 1992, when the Cable Act was established, there were about 40 channels available. Today, there are hundreds of channels and streaming options. In short, the 26-year-old act is archaic. And it’s high time that it changes.