National TV Viewer Advocate Urges Congress to Fix Old Laws that Let Broadcasters Hold Viewers Hostage

ATVA: “Shameful to Block Kids from Watching the Baseball Allstar Game”

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today demanded Media General to immediately end its blackout of TV viewers in Iowa, South Dakota, Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas, Alabama, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and California.

Media General is deliberately blacking KWQC-NBC (Davenport, IA/Rock Island-Moline, IL), KIMT-CBS/MNT (Mason City, IA), KELO-CBS/MNT (Sioux Falls, SD), WANE-CBS (Fort Wayne, IN), WAVY-NBC and WVBT-FOX (Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, VA), WTHI-CBS/FOX (Terre Haute, IN), WKRN-ABC (Nashville, TN), KSNT-NBC and KTMJ-FOX (Topeka, KS), KSNW-NBC (Wichita-Hutchison, KS), WIAT-CBS (Birmingham, AL), WOTV-ABC and WOOD-NBC (Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, MI), WBAY-ABC (Green Bay-Appleton, WI), WFNA-CW (Mobile, AL/Pensacola, FL) and KRON-CW (San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA).

The following statement can be attributed to ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy:

“Media General is holding the Major League Baseball All Star Game and dozens of other favorite shows for ransom in a naked ploy to get consumers to pay higher TV fees. Media General should be ashamed that they are depriving kids in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Terre Haute and Topeka the opportunity to watch their favorite ballplayers compete in one of America’s most beloved sporting events. Tens of thousands of TV fans in other cities won’t get to see their favorite shows on CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox.

Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that Media General would stoop to such lows. The company has a disturbing history of using blackouts to extort viewers for more money. Media General and its predecessor companies, LIN Media and Young Broadcasting, have blacked out more than 75 stations since 2008.

Media General’s brass-knuckle tactics are all too familiar: a broadcaster waits until a popular TV event is on the horizon and then gives fans an ultimatum, pay higher fees or get blacked out. It’s not fair and it’s not pretty, but sadly, it is legal because Congress hasn’t fixed the laws.

The American Television Alliance demands that Media General immediately end its outrageous consumer blackout and urges affected viewers to join the American Television Alliance as we work to end the broadcaster giveaways and loopholes that hurt TV fans and American families.”

The Facts on Retransmission Consent and TV Blackouts

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of their favorite channels due to at least 455 broadcaster blackouts.   The menace of TV blackouts continues to grow:

  • 67 blackouts in 2015
  • 107 blackouts in 2014
  • 127 blackouts in 2013
  • 91 blackouts in 2012
  • 51 blackouts in 2011
  • 12 blackouts in 2010

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

  • Retransmission consent fees have grown 8,600% between 2005 and 2012.
  • SNL Kagan projects retrans revenue of $6.3 billion in 2015$7.2 billion in 2016, and $10.3 billion by 2021.
  • SNL Kagan projects that over time 50% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks rather than pay for local programming.

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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 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.