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Public news from NCTC and selected partners.

Small, Rural Cable TV Consumers Must be Protected in Sinclair-Tribune Merger

NCTC Files FCC Comments Documenting Harms to Small Cable Subscribers “A Tax on Rural America”

Lenexa, KS – The National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), which represents more than 800 small and midsized independent cable operators across the country, filed comments last week with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) documenting the harm to millions of consumers in rural America that would result from the Sinclair-Tribune merger. The NCTC urged the Commission to ensure competition and prevent small cable operators and their subscribers from being harmed. NCTC members operate primarily in rural and smaller markets.

President and CEO Rich Fickle commented on NCTC’s filing with the FCC:

“Given Sinclair’s current negotiating posture, NCTC took the rare step of filing comments with the FCC. In our more than 30 years of negotiating for our members, Sinclair’s behavior is one of the most extreme and blatant examples of a programmer exploiting its enormous size, and demanding unreasonable terms and conditions with no regard for consumers, local communities or small operators. If the Sinclair-Tribune merger is approved without protections for small cable operators, the transaction would effectively establish a tax on rural America and small business.

Protections absent in the megamerger will result in more TV blackouts, more unwanted channels and higher prices, all in direct contrast to what customers want and need in today’s competitive video marketplace. Small and rural cable operators would be powerless to slow the massive retrans fee increases that such an enormous entity would demand. We urge the FCC to include robust competition measures to ensure that consumers in smaller markets are not harmed by the increased market concentration that will result from the merger.”

Beyond demanding outrageously higher retrans fees, Sinclair is insisting on additional onerous conditions, such as the forced bundling of unwanted programming, like the Tennis Channel, and mandating the carriage of WGN America, a channel owned by Tribune. Sinclair is using high pressure tactics to intimidate small operators to accept these terms. If small cable operators do not agree to Sinclair’s “take it or leave it” terms, they face the risk of a blackout when programming deals expire at the end of the year.

About NCTC
The National Cable Television Cooperative, Inc. (NCTC) operates as a programming and technology purchasing group for its member companies who own and operate cable systems throughout the U.S. and its territories. Visit