Cable, Satellite Ops Seek Congressional Review Of Retrans [Multichannel News]
Cable and satellite companies, including Insight, representing 65 million customers are calling on the federal government to fix the broken system that allows broadcasters to black out their channels during contract negotiations with cable and satellite providers. Consumer groups Public Knowledge and New America Foundation also joined Insight, DirecTV Group Inc., Dish Network Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., Bright House Networks L.L.C., Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink, Bright House Networks, Mediacom, and hundreds of smaller cable and telephone companies in a letter to the U.S. House and Senate Commerce Committees.
Unfortunately, it's become an all-to-common occurrence that broadcasters are becoming more and more willing to pull their signals off the air, if they can't reach an agreement. Just this week, a dispute between Cablevision and the local ABC outlet in New York resulted in an 18 hour blackout of ABC7 for all Cablevision customers. The signal was restored 15 minutes after the beginning of the Acadamy Awards, suggesting that high-value programming can and will be used to increase their leverage to get better long-term deals.
Consumer groups Public Knowledge and New America Foundation have joined the coalition in the letter because they also recognize that the current retransmission rules are being exploited by broadcasters to the detriment of viewers who just want the programming they're paying for.
Here's the letter that the coalition sent to Congress:
Another group of distributors, including most of the same companies that signed the letter, have also asked the FCC to consider retransmission consent rule changes in order to settle disputes between multichannel video distributors and broadcasters. The filing does not opine on the fairness of Retransmission Consent to cable and satellite customers -- that battle was fought long ago. Instead, it seeks to find another way to resolve more and more common impasses, rather than TV stations simply pulling their signals out of the homes of millions of their viewers. The companies have offered one solution, as an example of how these disputes could be better handled -- binding arbitration -- which is not the only answer but certainly one that is worth considering.
I plan to comment further on this subject in the coming weeks.