The trade group tells the FCC that the merged entity should be given restrictions on its ability to negotiate for retransmission consent fees as well as be forced to comply with existing media ownership limits, not “hoped-for” relaxed ownership limits.
NCTA, the cable industry’s leaning trade group, on Friday joined the ranks of those concerned about Sinclair $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, asking the FCC to hem in the mega-station group post-merger with conditions restricting its ability to negotiate for retransmission consent fees.
The trade group also said Sinclair should be made to comply with existing media ownership limits, not “hoped-for” relaxed ownership limits.
“The holdings of the [Sinclair-Tribune] will give it exceptional leverage in business dealings with multichannel video programming distributors, programming suppliers, and advertisers,” the NCTA says. “Without appropriate guardrails in place, the combined entity will be uniquely positioned to exercise this leverage to the detriment of consumers and competition.”
NCTA’s proposed “guardrails” on the deal:
- Expand the ban against separately owned stations in a market from jointly negotiating for retransmission consent fees to include Sinclair’s commonly owned stations.
- Prohibit Sinclair from negotiating with program providers on behalf of multiple stations in a DMA to limit opportunities for Sinclair “to exert unfair leverage in those negotiations.”
- Extend and expand the terms of the consent decree that bars Sinclair stations from negotiating retrans jointly with “sidecar” stations controlled through JSAs, LMAs or SSAs.
With Tribune, Sinclair will exceed the FCC’s existing local and national ownership caps, but it hasn’t yet said how it intends to come into compliance with the limits. Its apparent hope is that the FCC will relax the limits and make spin offs of stations unnecessary. The Republican-controlled FCC has signaled that it intends to ease the rules.
No good, says the NCTA.
The FCC “should decisively reject any effort by the applicants to exceed the existing ownership rules unless and until the commission actually changes those rules,” it says.
And the FCC should not grant Sinclair waivers to own excess stations.
‘The FCC should not approve a transaction that results in holdings about the current limits until the public has had an opportunity, through a rulemaking proceeding, to consider the consumer and competitive implications of further relaxation of the ownership rules, including the impact on MVPDs and their customers and on program suppliers,” NCTA says.