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Big 4, Affiliates, NAB Join in Protest Letter to Federal Lawmakers

Mar 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Big 4 networks, their affiliate associations and the National Association of Broadcasters on Thursday sent a joint letter to all federal legislators protesting what they consider an effort by satellite operator EchoStar Communications and the American Cable Association to kill retransmission consent.

Under retransmission consent regulations originally established in 1992 law, cable TV and satellite operators can be required to negotiate for the right to carry broadcast signals. In their letter, the broadcasters said EchoStar and the ACA have been urging lawmakers to give them the right to carry broadcast signals for free.

“Retransmission consent has led to more program diversity for American consumers-more local news, more local weather, more sustainable support for broadcasters’ purchase of millions of dollars of programming on the open market for their local audiences,” the broadcasters said in their letter. “Congress should not tumble to this thinly disguised effort to have the government put its thumb on cable’s side of the scale.” A spokesperson for EchoStar declined comment.

In a statement, Matt Polka, president and CEO of ACA, said the networks and NAB were “shamelessly” attempting to convince policymakers that retransmission consent served free-market interests.

“Only a monopolist would define a ‘free market’ as one where the federal government provides media conglomerates with: 1) free public spectrum; 2) guaranteed carriage of their product that uses that spectrum; 3) a guaranteed ability to make consumers pay for what is otherwise a free over-the-air signal; 4) while granting that same entity a government sanctioned monopoly; and then 5) allowing the broadcasters to hide all this from public scrutiny,” Mr. Polka said. “We share the same concerns that many of the 600,000 consumers in each congressional district have with television. We know there is a better way to offer content, to control spiraling costs and to address families’ concerns about what they view. Consequently, we will continue to call for congressional action to reform current laws and regulations such as retransmission consent to finally allow consumers to benefit from a truly free market.”