ATVA Applauds Introduction of Legislation to Fix and Modernize Nation’s TV laws

Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) Introduce Legislation to Update TV laws

WASHINGTON, DC– As the number of broadcaster blackouts reaches an all-time high for a single calendar year, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have introduced legislation that would fix our nation’s outdated video laws.

“We applaud the leadership of Representatives Scalise and Eshoo for putting forward a bipartisan plan that brings our video laws into the 21stCentury,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Today’s marketplace is vastly different than when our current framework was established in 1992 – and it is completely dysfunctional.”

In the past three weeks, broadcasters have blacked out millions of cable and satellite consumers, bringing the 2019 blackout total to 230, breaking the previous record of 213 set in 2017.    Since 2006, retrans fees have gone from about $200 million, to $10.1 billion in 2018, an increase of 4,950 percent.   In the past 10 years, primetime viewership of the big four broadcast networks has declined by 52 percent.     

“This outdated system favors broadcasters and allows them to charge Americans billions more for a product that is sinking in popularity.  Only a government-skewed market would produce such upside-down economics.  The TV blackout crisis is out of control and it’s about time that Congress did something to put an end to it,” added Duffy.  “2019 is already the worst year ever for broadcaster blackouts and we only expect it to get worse until Congress acts.”

The 1992 Cable Act first established the regulatory regime known as retransmission consent. Retransmission consent fees are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) are required to pay in order to carry broadcast TV channels.  If demands for higher fees are not met, broadcasters pull their signals.   A cable or satellite operator is not allowed to provide subscribers a broadcaster’s signal without permission, which allows broadcasters to use the threat of blackouts and actual blackouts to extort higher fees – fees that are ultimately paid by subscribers.

TV Blackout Crisis: 2019 Breaks Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake in Billions from Viewers

Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 1,000 broadcaster-initiated blackouts. With 230 blackouts, 2019 is the worst year for TV blackouts on record.

  • 230 blackouts in 2019 – Retrans Fees: $11.7B (estimated)
  • 165 blackouts in 2018 – Retrans Fees: $10.1B
  • 213 blackouts in 2017 – Retrans Fees: $9.3B
  • 104 blackouts in 2016 – Retrans Fees: $7.9 B
  • 193 blackouts in 2015 – Retrans Fees: $6.4B
  • 94 blackouts in 2014 – Retrans Fees: $4.8B
  • 119 blackouts in 2013 – Retrans Fees: $3.6B
  • 90 blackouts in 2012 – Retrans Fees: $2.4B
  • 42 blackouts in 2011 – Retrans Fees: $1.7B
  • 8 blackouts in 2010 – Retrans Fees: $1.2B

** Retrans fees in $billions based on data from SNL Kagan

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