American Cable Association Petitions FCC Over Sinclair’s Latest Purchase

By Kevin Eck 

The American Cable Association has filed a petition asking the FCC to either restrict or deny Sinclair Broadcast Group’s purchase of New Age Media’s television stations.

The ACA is taking a different stance than other organizations who oppose Sinclair’s buying spree. The ACA is making it primarily about money. They’re concerned Sinclair could leverage its sidecar agreements and gang up on local cable providers to squeeze more money out of them rather than negotiate station by station.

In its FCC filing, the organization said, “ACA is concerned about the effect of the transaction on two markets where the transaction would result in Sinclair entering into agreements that allow it to coordinate the negotiation of retransmission consent agreements for two top-four rated Big Four television stations.”

The two markets mentioned are Tallahassee, FL, where Sinclair is buying FOX affiliate WTLH through Cunningham Broadcasting while it already owns NBC affiliate WTWC and in Gainesville, FL, where Sinclair will buy CBS affiliate WGFL directly and the NBC affiliate WNBW through a sidecar agreement with Cunningham.

The filing goes on to say, “The intricate agreements between the Applicants regarding Sinclair’s “support” of the core broadcast functions of Cunningham’s nominally owned stations, as well as Sinclair’s option to acquire the stations outright, make it exceedingly difficult to fashion conditions that could effectively prevent the Applicants from coordinating their retransmission consent negotiations. Their incentive and ability to share information would nearly certainly prove too great to overcome.”

The ACA has also recently filed a petition over Sinclair’s purchase of Allbritton Stations where it wrote, “This arrangement would permit the nominally separately owned stations to coordinate their retransmission consent negotiations, thereby enabling them to extract higher retransmission consent prices from local multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) than each station could expect to secure if negotiating separately.”