Afraid of the Future, Broadcasters Are Playing Pinocchio

NAB’s Latest Claims About Pay-TV Are Just Another Fairy Tale

Washington, D.C. July 16, 2014– The National Association of Broadcasters continues to lie about video reform, especially retransmission consent. Broadcasters have demonstrated that they’re willing to say and do anything to stop Congress from helping consumers.

The American Television Alliance has listed some of these attacks below, along with the facts. In addition, ATVA spokesman Brian Frederick released the following statement:

“It’s time for broadcasters to start telling the truth to consumers. They are so desperate to preserve a broken retransmission consent system that they will say and do anything – even if it means lying. If broadcasters say something about TV, you can bet the exact opposite is true. Broadcasters are the primary reason for rising pay-TV bills and TV blackouts, and they don’t really want a free market. Consumers deserve video rules written in the 21st Century, but broadcasters will stop at nothing to protect their profits.”

Here’s a list of broadcaster falsehoods, along with the truth and links to more comprehensive rebuttals:

Broadcaster Lie: “Pay-TV Internet and service failures” have exceeded TV blackouts.
THE TRUTH: Broadcasters have intentionally blacked out millions of Americans in pursuit of profits.
More: Broadcasters are running ads with a wildly misleading graphic identifying “3,050 Pay-TV/Internet service failures” in 2014 compared to five “TV blackouts caused by retrans disputes in 2014.” There have been 32 TV blackouts. Beyond the lie, the comparison is absurd. First, the service failures are individual reports, which may or may not be accurate. The TV blackout number does not refer to individual reports. If we considered the individual pay-TV viewers affected by the 32 retrans blackouts in 2014, it would be millions! Second, combining pay-TV disruptions with Internet disruptions is extremely problematic. Finally, broadcasters intentionally cause TV blackouts in pursuit of money, while service disruptions by pay-TV providers are unintentional and hurt pay-TV company business. Read more here.

Broadcaster Lie: Pay-TV providers are trying to “mess with free TV” for “nearly 60 million Americans.”
THE TRUTH: Retransmission consent reform would in no way affect free, over-the-air broadcast TV, unless the broadcasters themselves pull the plug on viewers.
More: That 60 million figure is based on a dubious broadcaster-funded study that found that 19.3 percent of homes are broadcast-TV only. Virtually every other source has placed that number between 5 and 10 percent, such as Nielsen, which reports that “more than 95 percent of Americans” watch TV with cable or satellite. Or we could just consider the words of CBS CEO Les Moonves, who said on Tuesday, “[R]ight now, almost 90% of the people watching CBS are watching from satellite, cable or telco, so in essence we are not so much an over-the-air broadcast. You can still get it, but a very low percentage of our viewers get their content that way.” Read more here.                                                                     

Broadcaster Lie: Pay-TV providers are the cause of TV blackouts.
THE TRUTH: If broadcasters didn’t take their signal down during disputes, blackouts would never happen.
More: Broadcasters cause blackouts. Pay-TV providers would not risk losing customers by blacking them out. Smaller pay-TV companies have no choice but to give into broadcasters because they don’t have the resources to fight back against broadcaster extortion. Read more here.

Broadcaster Lie: Retransmission consent is the “free market.”
THE TRUTH: Broadcasters benefit from numerous government subsidies, including the mandate that cable companies show their channels.
More: It is time for the media to refuse to parrot this falsehood. The government requires that broadcast TV stations be placed on the basic tier, forcing cable subscribers to purchase “free” over-the-air broadcast signals, even if they don’t want them.  A free market can’t exist for video with rules called “must buy” and “must carry.” And there are several other regulations regarding retrans that prevent a free market, such as syndicated exclusivity, network non-duplication, and others. Read more here.

Broadcaster Lie: Pay-TV providers are stifling innovation.
THE TRUTH: No group has ever worked harder to stifle innovation than broadcasters.
More: Broadcasters are claiming that pay-TV providers “should be held accountable for stifling innovation.” Broadcasters have resisted every new consumer innovation. Fox is suing DISH Network over a service that allows subscribers to use the Internet to watch programs they’ve recorded on their DVR. Read more here.

Broadcaster Lie: Ending the “basic tier mandate” would harm PEG channels.
THE TRUTH: PEG channels would not be affected by ending basic tier mandate.
More: Broadcasters claim reforming the basic tier would negatively impact public, educational and government (PEG) access channels. PEG stations would not be impacted by eliminating the basic tier mandate, nor would PBS or any station that elects “must carry.” Only for-profit broadcasters reaping billions from retransmission consent would be affected. Read more here.

Broadcaster Lie: Broadcasters only represent a small percentage of pay-TV bills.
THE TRUTH: Broadcasters are the biggest reason for rising pay-TV rates.
More: Broadcasters are pointing the finger at pay-TV providers for high cable bills, without noting their major role. The four major broadcast networks own much of the national television programming. This includes not only local TV stations, but also the most expensive cable networks. In fact, half of the top 50 are owned by the Big Four broadcast networks. Knowing the government requires consumers to pay for their local stations, broadcasters frequently tie carriage of their cable networks to the local TV stations. Read more here.

Broadcaster Lie: Pay-TV providers are not being transparent.
THE TRUTH: Broadcasters continue to fight against transparency of their own rates.
More: Broadcasters say there is a lack of transparency to pay-TV billing practices, yet they don’t bill viewers directly. Instead, they bury fees for local TV, and the cable networks tied to them, in cable bills as hidden fees. While they’re crying for transparency, let’s allow consumers to see what they’re paying for this content and decide if it’s fair value.

Broadcast Lie: Broadcast TV is “free.”
THE TRUTH: Broadcast TV costs billions and counting.
More: Broadcasters claim to protect “Free TV,” but TV hasn’t been free since 1992. In the last eight years, retransmission consent fees have risen 119 times the rate of inflation. By 2019, broadcasters will demand an additional $25 billion for “free” TV. But the real costs are more than just the skyrocketing fees. The pursuit of retrans led to a wave of consolidation that’s crushed diversity and local programming. Read more here.

Broadcast lie: Broadcast TV Is “always on.”
THE TRUTH: When broadcasters black out TV viewers, they are not, in fact, always on.
More: Broadcasters boast they’re “always on.” For the 90% of Americans who are pay TV subscribers, broadcast TV is subject to blackouts. Until retransmission rules get updated, broadcasters can continue pulling the plug. As much as they pretend blackouts are caused by pay TV providers, broadcasters control the signal. They cause blackouts. Read more here.

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