News

CBS Blacks Out Millions on DISH, Threatens Thanksgiving

Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York, L.A., Philly, San Fran and other Major Markets Left in the Dark
CBS Leverages Thanksgiving Day Parade, Holiday Specials and NFL Football

Washington, D.C. – The CBS Corporation today pulled the plug on millions of American families, unilaterally blacking out 28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states for DISH subscribers.  The American Television Alliance, a voice for the TV viewer, condemned CBS’s massive consumer blackout and demanded the broadcaster restore its signal to affected households.  ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy commented on CBS’s outrageous actions:

“Blacking out millions of American families just ahead of Thanksgiving is a new low.  This is a naked attempt by CBS to shake down families for more of their hard-earned money, as they sit down to enjoy turkey and watch football.  It is shameful and wrong.

CBS wears its billion-dollar retrans haul like a badge of honor, so it’s no surprise its executives in New York are willing to block the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Frosty the Snowman, and the annual Dallas Cowboys Turkey Day game to create leverage in an obvious cash-grab.

Cable and satellite TV subscribers already pay too much for programming available for free, over the air.  CBS’s appalling actions highlight ATVA’s longstanding call for Congress and the FCC to protect consumers from broadcaster blackouts and higher fees by reforming outdated and broken video laws.”

Contrary to what CBS would like the public to believe, cable and satellite providers cannot “drop” local stations.  CBS is solely responsible for this blackout, and CBS alone has the power to restore its signal and end this blackout before Thanksgiving.  CBS, as the owner of its content, can restore its programming for DISH customers at any time, even while negations are taking place.

Broadcasters have a long history of using TV blackouts as weapons to extract higher fees from consumers.  CBS is a repeat offender; the broadcaster orchestrated a month-long blackout of 3 million Time Warner Cable subscribers in 2013.

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Break Records As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 800 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  With 212 blackouts already this year, 2017 is the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 212 blackouts in 2017 (and counting)
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost:

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time 60% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • Retrans fees have grown an astonishing 22,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and even more troubling, they have seen 40% annual increases over the last 3 years.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

ATVA Statement on New Broadcast TV Standards and Ownership Rules

Congress and the FCC Must Protect Consumers from Higher Fees and Broadcaster Blackouts

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, issued the following statement on today’s FCC actions on a new Broadcast Television Standard (ATSC 3.0) and the relaxation of media ownership rules.

“Today the FCC approved a new broadcast standard and loosened restrictions on media ownership.  While the orders include some measures to protect consumers, we are disappointed that the Commission did not do more in these proceedings to protect viewers from higher costs and more broadcaster blackouts.  We will continue to work with the FCC to ensure that, despite these changes, broadcasters negotiate the carriage of their signals in good faith,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

 

 

 

 

Trust But Verify on New Broadcast Standard

Next week federal regulators at the FCC will consider a new broadcast standard called ATSC 3.0, the so-called “Next Gen” TV standard.   If implemented properly, the Next Gen transition could have some important benefits to consumers, including access to higher quality video, immersive sound and more efficient use of broadcast spectrum.  Technological innovation is a win for consumers, but new broadcast standards should not increase consumer costs or include new mandates on pay TV providers.

It’s been almost a decade since the transition to Digital HD broadcast signals.  But whereas the DTV received years of planning, intense media scrutiny and two separate acts of Congress to implement, the ATSC 3.0 transition is occurring largely unnoticed.  While the transition may improve broadcast service, it could also harm consumers if not managed properly.

In previous filings we asked the Commission to ensure two overriding policy objectives in regard to the Next Generation Broadcast transition: that the transition is completely voluntary for all participants, and that the new standard does not harm others in the television ecosystem by imposing new cost burdens on consumers and other participants.

Decisions impacting millions of American consumers require a ‘trust but verify’ approach.  We look forward to working with the Commission to ensure the new broadcast standards do not result in higher bills for consumers, more broadcaster initiated blackouts and other loss of service.

Broadcasters do not operate in a vacuum, and they do not have the right to impose new costs or burdens on consumers and other market participants.  ATVA has been working with the FCC on these important issues on behalf of all TV viewers.  We will continue to work with the Commission to protect consumers from harm during the transition.

Broadcasters can transition to ATSC 3.0 without causing any of these problems—but only if the FCC takes affirmative steps to protect consumers from harm.

Univision’s Demands for Astronomical Rate Increases Drove Blackout for Verizon’s Fios TV Customers 

 

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA), a voice for the TV viewer, today blamed Univision’s demands for astronomical new rate increases as the real cause behind the blackout of Verizon Fios TV customers. Based on news reports, Univision’s conduct follows a familiar pattern intended to extract more money from American consumers. When Univision demanded exorbitant new fees for its same programming, which threatens to raise video costs for all Verizon customers, Verizon said no. Univision’s demands for huge rate hikes are particularly outrageous because their viewership is declining significantly – even among their traditional customer base. According to one published report, Univision has lost more than 45% of its prime time audience since 2013.1

Unwilling to compromise on price and give consumers a fair deal, Univision is now running to the FCC and the media to blame Verizon. These actions are just more examples of Univision’s well-worn and aggressive tactics to gain leverage in content negotiations. Earlier this year, Univision followed a similar playbook with Charter Communications, leaving millions of consumers without access to their programming. Univision also went dark with ATT U-Verse customers in 2016.

“Univision’s hardball negotiating tactics are a naked ploy to extract higher fees from consumers,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman. According to recent media reports, Univision seeks an increase of more than double what they charge for access to their channels today. Univision is following a well-established pattern of trying to pressure pay-TV providers, like Verizon, into offensive rate increases that could result in dramatically higher costs for all Verizon customers, whether they watch Univision or not. “By demanding unrealistic rate increases, Univision has placed profits over people,” said Duffy.

“Contrary to what Univision would like the public to believe, cable, satellite and telco providers cannot simply ‘drop’ a local station,” Duffy added. “Instead, once a contract expires and no extension is agreed upon, video providers like Verizon don’t have the legal right under copyright laws to continue transmitting a content provider’s signal.” Duffy noted that “As a pay-TV provider in a competitive market where consumers are cutting the cord every day, Verizon has two choices: negotiate a fair and reasonable rate for content or risk losing customers who might reject the corresponding new price increases in their cable bills.” 2

Retransmission consent fees – what pay-TV operators pay broadcasters for the right to retransmit their free, over-the-air signal – are the fastest rising part of consumers’ bills. Since 2010, retrans fees have grown an astonishing 6,483% [no, that’s not a typo], and are expected to continue to soar to $12.8 billion by 2023, according to research firm SNL Kagan. In these disputes, people often lose sight of the fact that ultimately, it’s the consumer that bears the costs of the excessive fee increases (in the form of higher cable bills) when many content providers like Univision make unreasonable rate demands.

Univision’s demands for huge fee increases come at a time of tectonic changes in consumer behavior that are making its programming less valuable. Time spent watching traditional TV is in decline, as consumers spend more of their time watching online video and engaging with mobile devices. According to Nielsen, in the United States, Latinos spend more time on mobile devices than any other demographic group. Univision’s ratings declines are greatest among younger adults.

Univision is trying to shift its money problems onto distributors like Verizon and their customers. Univision is reportedly $9B in debt, run by private equity funds ruthless about turning a profit and struggling to raise an IPO.

“What makes Univision’s demands even more outrageous is that they come at a time when middle class American families are already struggling to manage their stretched household budgets and questioning the affordability of cable service. And here we have Univision demanding outlandish rate increases that will lead to less money in consumers’ pockets,” said Duffy. “The bottom line is Verizon’s video customers shouldn’t have to endure new price hikes just because Univision wants to increase its profits.”

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy. 

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

Cable Act Turns 25 and the Verdict Is In: A Disaster for Consumers

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, on October 5th, the 1992 Cable Act turns 25 years old.  The American Television Alliance, a voice for the TV viewer, commented on the occasion.

“For 25 years, cable, satellite and telco TV customers have paid more than $40 billion to the broadcast industry for something that was once free, broadcast TV.  The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government mandated broadcast carriage, or must carry; and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent.  Pay TV consumer have been paying the price ever since,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy.  “Today, broadcast TV fees are soaring, broadcasters blackouts are out of control and consumers are held hostage by a federal law written before the advent of HDTV, the Internet and smartphones.”

Broadcast retransmission fees are increasing at an astronomical rate, and will cost U.S. consumers $10.6 billion by 2020, and are expected to soar to $12.8 billion by 2023, an 18 percent increase from 2016 levels, according to industry research firm SNL Kagan.

The retrans cash grab is fueling a television blackout crisis.  2017 is on pace to have the most blackouts ever in a single year.  Consumers have endured 179 blackouts so far in 2017.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, including the Final Four contests and the national championship game are among the marquee events broadcasters held for ransom, using blackouts to increase “deal leverage.”  Broadcasters also blacked out the Super Bowl, NFL and College Football post season games, the Grammys, and network TV premiers earlier this year.

When President George Bush vetoed the bill in fall of 1992 he warned, “the simple truth is that under this legislation cable television rates will go up, not down.”  Congress overrode the veto, the bill became law and President Bush’s prescient warning has become a painful reality for pay TV customers.

“Congress must take a hard look at the woefully outdated rules of the retransmission consent regime, which are directly responsible for skyrocketing fees and the record pace of blackouts that pay TV consumers experience year after year.  Furthermore, these troubling trends should erase any doubts about the necessity for strong FCC oversight during the proposed NextGenTV transition.”

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

 For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

American Television Alliance Welcomes ACA Effort to Highlight “TV Ransom”

Small and Mid-sized Cable Operators to Spotlight Abusive Broadcaster Actions that Harm Consumers

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today welcomed the launch of the “TV Ransom” campaign, a new national education effort from the American Cable Association to highlight abusive broadcast industry behavior that harms consumers.  The launch of the TV Ransom campaign coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Cable Act, which ushered in the era of retransmission consent.

“We applaud the American Cable Association and its hundreds of members for stepping forward to highlight the rampant abuse of retransmission consent by the broadcast industry with the TV Ransom campaign,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA national spokesman.  “The retrans cash grab is fueling a television blackout crisis.  Broadcasters take down their signals and hold their programming for ransom to extract outrageous fee increases that are borne by consumers.  Pay TV customers have endured 179 broadcaster blackouts so far in 2017, which have deliberately targeted some of the most anticipated television events of the year, from the Super Bowl to the Final Four to the Grammys.  Retrans fees are the fastest rising part of  consumers’ monthly pay TV bill.”

“The TV Ransom campaign will play a vital educational role for consumers, highlighting the fact that in a retransmission consent dispute, there is only one party responsible for a blackout: the broadcaster,” added Duffy.  “The broadcasters — and the broadcasters alone — have the power to remove their programming from a cable, satellite or telco television provider.  And the broadcasters alone have the power to restore their signals to the consumer.”

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 On Pace To Break Blackout Record

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels.  With 176 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • 179 blackouts in 2017
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

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Lilly Broadcasting Blacks Out CBS and ABC Stations in Storm Ravaged Puerto Rico and USVI Hampering Recovery Efforts

Broadcaster Puts Profits Before Public Safety
Lilly ignores its public interest obligations and exploits humanitarian catastrophe to create ‘deal leverage’

Washington, D.C. – With humanitarian crises unfolding in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lilly Broadcasting compounded the situation last night by removing its signals from DISH customers in the disaster zones.  The American Television Alliance today condemned Lilly Broadcasting for putting public safety at risk and profiteering from a natural disaster.  Lilly Broadcasting is solely responsible for this blackout and Lilly alone has the power to restore its signals to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Lilly Broadcasting is putting profits before public safety.  This television blackout demonstrates a blatant disregard for the obligations broadcasters have to the communities they serve,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “The American Television Alliance condemns this outrageous consumer blackout that jeopardizes public safety and hampers storm recovery efforts.  We demand that Lilly Broadcasting immediately end its outrageous consumer blackout and cease this profiteering during a humanitarian crisis.”

Lilly is blacking out the following stations from DISH customers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands:

  • WSEEP-TV (CBS, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • WENY-VI (ABC, U.S. Virgin Islands)

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

Baltimore Ravens Game Blacked Out on the Eastern Shore

“Retrans Man” Strikes Again; Pulls the Plug on 20,000 Fios Customers
Demands Consumers pay 170% Fee Increase
WBOC Fox/CBS Affiliates in Delmarva went Dark at the Stroke of Midnight

Washington, D.C. – Today’s Baltimore Raven’s game is being held hostage for thousands of fans on the Eastern shore of Maryland.  WBOC, the station owned by Draper Broadcasting, has taken down its signal for nearly 20,000 Verizon Fios customers, meaning loyal fans in the Delmarva area will not be able to see today’s highly anticipated Ravens-Steelers matchup.  Draper Broadcasting is solely responsible for this blackout, and it alone has the power to restore its signal.

The TV blackout strategy was masterminded by Duane Lammers, the self-described “Retrans Man,” whose company MAX Retrans advises broadcasters to blackout consumers to create “deal leverage” and extract higher fees during retransmission consent negotiations.  Lammers is advising Draper Broadcasting and demanding consumers pay 170% more than they are currently paying for WBOC programming.

Retrans fees are the fastest rising part of the pay TV subscribers’ monthly bill.  The Retrans Man’s notorious scorched Earth tactics include an ongoing blackout of the Fox affiliate in Sioux Falls, which has deprived South Dakota viewers of programming for nearly a year.

“Duane Lammers is the public face of higher Pay TV bills,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Outdated laws allow broadcasters and hired guns like the ‘Retrans Man’ to fleece loyal TV viewers and diehard sports fans by demanding outrageous fee increases.  TV blackouts are out of control because broadcasters are exploiting a loophole in the law that allows them to abuse TV viewers with no consequences.  The American Television Alliance calls on Draper Broadcasting to end its outrageous consumer blackout immediately.”

During an interview in early 2016, Lammers proclaimed “the name of the company says it all” before going on to describe his business model:

“The whole MAX Retrans business model is built around only getting paid for what I generate, so I’m not walking in the door with my hands in the pocket of the retrains pie from day one, I only get paid on the incremental revenue I generate.”

Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to a recent analysis by the American Television Alliance.  Marquee football games are used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extract higher fees from consumers.

“Each year, football fans are used as pawns by broadcasters to pad their wallets; this year broadcasters are being even more aggressive, using brass knuckle tactics and hired guns to stick it to fans to make up for shrinking advertising dollars.  Sadly, this abusive broadcaster behavior will continue until Congress and the FCC take action to protect innocent consumers from harm.”

 

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 on Pace to Break Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake In $$$$ from Viewers

 

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels.  With 162 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

 

  • 162 blackouts in 2017
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost:

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time that 60% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • Retrans fees have grown an astonishing 22,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and more troubling, have seen 40% annual increases over the last 3 years.

###

The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

 

As Football Season Kicks Off, TV Blackout Season Kicks Into High Gear

Football is #1 Live TV Event Blacked Out by Broadcasters Trying to Squeeze Consumers for More Retrans Fees, Says New Analysis

Dispatch Media Blacking Out Fans in Columbus and Indianapolis
Raycom Threatening Kickoff Blackout in 43 Cities

Washington, D.C. – Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category, according to a new analysis released today by the American Television Alliance (ATVA).  Marquee football games are used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extort higher fees from consumers.

As the 2017 football season begins, two broadcasters had already pulled signals and another is threatening to do so in the coming days:

  • Dispatch Video pulled its CBS signal in Columbus, OH and NBC signal in Indianapolis, IN from DIRECTV and U-verse homes. Dispatch Video’s blackout will impact tonight’s opening game of the professional season; Saturday’s #15 Georgia at #24 Notre Dame primetime game; and Sunday night’s NBC primetime pro game in Indianapolis. It will also prevent Columbus homes from seeing Sunday afternoon’s Cleveland Browns opener as they typically do.
  • Raycom Media is threatening to remove 48 stations in 43 cities from DIRECTV customers’ homes, impacting millions of likely fans and thousands more local sports bars, restaurants and other small business owners.  Most top-ranked collegiate teams Raycom and other station owners might otherwise block represent major public universities that depend upon their state’s residents’ tax dollars, tuitions and other contributions to help support ongoing stadium and other facility upgrades.
  • Hearst Broadcasting pulled its signals in four markets, including the local NBC station in New Orleans, LA, but returned them before professional football’s season debut on Thursday night.

In 2016, broadcasters pulled the plug on post season professional football games and college football bowl games in more than 20 cities, leavings millions of fans without access to their favorite teams.

“Football fans should get ready for another blackout blitz this year.  The September kickoff of college and pro football also marks the start of primetime blackout season – a sad but predictable trend.  Each year, football fans are used as pawns by big broadcasters to pad their wallets; this year we expect broadcasters to be even more aggressive as they stick it to fans to make up for shrinking advertising dollars,” said Trent Duffy, spokesman for ATVA.

Live sporting events like football are regularly used by broadcasters to extract higher fees that are ultimately borne by consumers.  According to the American Television Alliance’s blackout tracking data, instances of post-season football blackouts are on the rise over the last two years.

TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 on Pace to Break Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake In $$$$ from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels.  With 145 blackouts already this year, 2017 is on pace to be the worst year for blackouts ever.

  • 151 blackouts in 2017
  • 104 blackouts in 2016
  • 193 blackouts in 2015
  • 94 blackouts in 2014
  • 119 blackouts in 2013
  • 90 blackouts in 2012
  • 42 blackouts in 2011
  • 8 blackouts in 2010

When blackouts finally end, consumers get their programming back, but at a higher cost:

  • SNL Kagan also projects that over time that 60% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • Retrans fees have grown an astonishing 22,400% [no, that’s not a typo] since 2005 and more troubling, have seen 40% annual increases over the last 3 years.

###

The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter@ATVAlliance.

 

 

 

NAB Hypocrisy Watch: Broadcasters Tout Localism to Congress 1 Day after Blacking Out TV Viewers in Hurricane Irma’s Path

Doublespeak from Broadcaster Trade Group as Station-Owners put Profits before Public Safety

Washington, D.C. – The brazen hypocrisy of the National Association of Broadcasters was on full display for policymakers and consumers at the House Energy and Commerce Committee this morning as an NAB witness touted the organization’s commitment to serving the public during extreme weather events, one day after Hearst Television blacked out viewers in Orlando in New Orleans – two major cities in the path of Hurricane Irma, the strongest Atlantic storm in history.

American Television Alliance Spokesman Trent Duffy reacted to the doublespeak from NAB:

“Actions speak louder than words.  The callous decision by Hearst Television to pull the plug on tens of thousands of TV viewers as the most dangerous storm in history looms is appalling.  Congress should know that NAB’s members are once again engaged in profiteering during a public safety emergency. The organization’s professed commitment to localism rings hallow when tens of thousands see a blank screen rather than critical news and information in the face of a hurricane.  Putting profits before public safety is reckless and wrong.  Lawmakers should hold Broadcasters accountable for their actions.”

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.