ACA to FCC: Keep News Corp. Conditions in Place

The American Cable Association continued to voice its opposition to an effort by News Corp. to escape retransmission consent and regional sports network conditions established by the Federal Communications Commission as part of the media giant's purchase of DIRECTV in 2004.

News Corp. sold its DIRECTV holdings earlier in the year to Liberty Media. Since then the company has filed a petition of with the FCC asking for elimination of the conditions. The original order containing the conditions is not set to expire until 2010.

In a filing released Friday, ACA said its small, independent cable operator members report that the News Corp. conditions "have brought a measure of stability to Fox-affiliated retransmission consent and RSN (regional sports network) renewals. This has benefited consumers by maintaining access to must have programming and avoiding disruption of customer viewing patterns.

"Withdrawal of these conditions place small and medium-sized cable companies and the consumers they serve at serious risk," ACA said in its comments.

ACA said if the conditions were lifted, small cable operators and their customers could be forced to pay more for the same content. That's because News Corp. could exercise unconstrained market power over smaller distributors, said ACA.

The public also could face the risk of disruption in service because News Corp. would be permitted to withdraw broadcast channels and regional sports networks to squeeze higher license fees, the group said.