Originally published: September 1, 2010
Last updated: September 1, 2010 - 9:54pm
The American Cable Association called on the Federal Communications Commission to impose a range of conditions on the Comcast-NBC Universal transaction to prevent the unprecedented media combination from using programming and distribution dominance to undermine competition by greatly escalating the price of cable and broadcast channels that market rivals, including ACA members, must purchase to remain in business.
ACA's desired conditions target and address the competitive harms of the proposed combination and are robust and durable to ameliorate sufficiently the deal's many negative effects. ACA's conditions would close gaps in remedies used by the FCC to condition previous media combinations that while well-intentioned, proved in practice to be insufficient to protect consumers, particularly those served by smaller operators. For a period of nine years, ACA is recommending the following conditions, should the FCC decide to approve the license transfers associated with the Comcast-NBCU transaction. In the main, ACA's conditions would simplify contracts, lower arbitration costs, and contain special conditions for smaller operators that cannot afford baseball-style arbitration available to all pay-TV providers.
General Conditions Applicable To All Pay-TV Providers
- Comcast-NBCU is required to sell NBC stations and regional sports networks (RSNs) on a stand-alone basis, meaning each NBC station and RSN cannot be bundled with carriage for any other video programming network.
- FCC program access rules shall apply to all Comcast-NBCU TV stations as well as all satellite- and terrestrially delivered RSNs and national cable networks for distribution on any delivery platform, including online and mobile.
- Dispute resolution through baseball-style commercial arbitration shall include a right to program carriage until the matter is resolved.
Special Conditions For Smaller Pay-TV Providers
- Comcast-NBCU is prohibited from requiring any pay-TV provider with 125,000 video subscribers or less locally to pay a fee for an NBC station or RSN that is 5% greater than the lowest fee paid by any other local pay-TV distributor -- including Comcast itself -- for the market's NBC signal or the area's RSN.
- Comcast-NBCU officials are required to certify to the FCC on an annual basis that all eligible retransmission consent and RSN contracts comply with the 5% rule.
- Dispute resolution for smaller pay-TV providers through a newly designed, lower-priced commercial arbitration system, different from baseball-style, shall include a right to program carriage until the matter is resolved.
- Comcast-NBCU shall negotiate in good faith with bargaining agents, including the National Cable Television Cooperative, and dispute resolution through baseball-style commercial arbitration shall be available to bargaining agents. Comcast-NBCU could not refuse to negotiate with a bargaining agent on behalf of all its principals or members.
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