PITTSBURGH, January 2, 2019 – American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement regarding TV station blackouts initiated against ACA members, including TDS, in 16 markets by Nexstar Media Group on New Year’s Day:
“On New Year’s Day, TV station owner Nexstar Media Group pulled signals from several small cable operators, once again blacking out signals to tens of thousands of viewers who have done nothing wrong.
“Shame on Nexstar for harming consumers in small markets and rural areas. Viewers depend on their small cable operators to receive local news, weather, sports and popular programming from ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. It’s outrageous for huge conglomerates like Nexstar to harm Main Street customers in order make their Wall Street lords a bit richer.
“Small cable operators are not to blame. They are willing to pay higher fees to broadcasters for programming with declining ratings. And they are willing to grant extensions of agreements to keep negotiating in order to avoid hurting consumers. At some point, however, there must be a limit to the crazy price increases Nexstar wants consumers to pay.
“Even more galling, Nexstar created a bogus website providing small-market customers with false and misleading information about the progress of negotiations. Nexstar, for example, claims ACA member TDS ‘dropped’ a Nexstar station when Nexstar knows perfectly well that TDS may not retransmit Nexstar’s signal without permission — permission that Nexstar refuses to give.
“Nexstar’s willingness to mislead customers is troubling conduct for an entity that seeks FCC approval to purchase Tribune Media’s 42 TV stations. This transaction would make Nexstar the largest TV station owner in the country with 216 stations in 118 markets. It would put Nexstar in position to black out at least more than half of the country. Should Nexstar really have this much power, especially when it has a track record of fudging the facts in a way that looks a lot like the behavior displayed by Sinclair Broadcast Group?
“Congress and the FCC have repeatedly been warned about the boorish conduct of Nexstar, Sinclair, and the other TV station bad actors. ACA has also stressed that increasing media consolidation and the exploitation of regulations designed for a different time create exceptionally bad outcomes for competition and pay-TV consumers. In light of Nexstar’s conduct on the first day of the year, ahead of major college bowl games and the NFL playoffs, it is hard to imagine how its purchase of Tribune would serve the public interest.
“Finally, how long will Washington buy into the broadcasters’ charade that they are ‘free and local’ — the broadcasters’ words, not mine — and that retransmission consent is negotiated in an arms-length manner, when they rely on decades-old federal laws and rules that give broadcasters the right to demand monopoly retransmission consent payments as well as the right to exclude all competitors? It’s time to reform these and other outdated communications laws for the benefit of all consumers.”