The cable trade group alleges that the ABC-NBC-Fox triopoly resulting from the sale would give New Vision Television undue bargaining power in its retrans negotiations with cable and satellite operators and ultimately drive up cable rates for consumers.
ACA Asks FCC To Block Sale of KTKA Topeka
Ramping up its campaign against retransmission consent, the American Cable Association today asked the FCC to block or condition the sale of KTKA Topeka, Kan., alleging that the likely duopoly that will result from the sale will give the duopoly operator undue bargaining leverage in retrans negotiation with cable and satellite operators.
“If this very troubling transaction is allowed to go through unchanged, Topeka’s pay television viewers will suffer irreparable economic harm either by paying higher subscription rates or losing total access to as many as three of Topeka’s Big Four stations at the same time,” ACA CEO Matt Polka said in a statement.
ACA called on the FCC either to block the sale or adopt a transaction-specific condition that would prevent the station from jointly bargaining retransmission consent with another major TV station in the Topeka.
“ACA is drawing the line in the Topeka market because based on empirical data from many local TV markets, we know that TV stations that jointly negotiate retransmission consent deals, especially the affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, charge pay television providers higher fees than stations that bargain on their own,” Polka said.
At issue is PBC Broadcasting’s proposed acquisition of ABC affiliate KTKA from Free State Communications for a reported $1.5 million.
PBC, owned by Todd Parkin, is expected to turn over operation of the station to New Vision Television, which owns the NBC affiliate (KSNT) and low-power Fox affiliate in Topeka, forming a virtual triopoly in the market. PBC is New Vision’s duopoly partner is two other markets: Youngstown, Ohio, and Savannah, Ga.
ACA has been arguning that there is a nexus between media consolidation and rising retransmission consent fees for many years, calling on regulators to examine effects of duopolies that rely on LMAs and SSAs to circumvent the FCC’s local TV station ownership caps.
ACA cited evidence provided by cable operator Suddenlink Communications showing that these broadcaster negotiating alliances drive up the cost of retransmission consent by about 21%.
In 2010, ACA members CableAmerica, USA Companies and Pioneer Telephone Cooperative also documented in FCC filings that TV station duopolies charge 30%, 133% and 161% more for retransmission consent, respectively, than TV stations they bargain with on a one-on-one basis.