ATVA Files Reply Comments to FCC

3,300 Consumers Submit Comments TV Viewers Across the Country Weigh In on Broadcaster Abuses

Washington, D.C – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today submitted reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission on the implementation of Section 103 of the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 – the proposed update to the good faith rules.  Over 3,300 consumer comments were also submitted along with ATVA’s reply comments. “The current retransmission consent system harms consumers and is cooked in favor of broadcasters, who blackout 12 million pay-TV subscribers a year,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy.  “From eight TV blackouts in 2010 to 193 in 2015, and 14 in 2016, the number of blackouts has grown out of control.  Retrans fees have increased 22,400% in the past decade, and more troubling, gone up 40% each of the last 3 years.  Congress asked the FCC to fix the system and it’s about time that they did.” In legislation passed in 2014, Congress recognized that the existing rules and regulations governing retransmission consent negotiations are not working and directed the FCC to commence a rulemaking to examine what constitutes “good faith” in retransmission consent negotiations.  Now, the Commission must seize the opportunity to take decisive action to protect consumers from ever-escalating TV blackouts and programming costs and reform a broken retransmission consent system. ATVA outlined in its reply comments that:

  1. Based on broadcasters’ obligations to serve the public interest Congress gave the Commission authority to implement good faith rules.
  2. Broadcasters’ claims that the “market is working” ignore both the facts and the public-interest obligations they have undertaken.
  3. ATVA’s proposed changes will help ensure that broadcasters fulfill their obligations to viewers.

ATVA’s comments can be viewed here. Consumers Across the Country Weigh In Below are some of the 3,300 comments from viewers across the country about abusive broadcaster behavior:

  • “I am afraid as right now I have no local news. What if there is a real security issue for the nation or my local area? I will not know. This leaves me very vulnerable. I am shocked this is happening in our great USA.”
  • “We pay for free TV stations on a monthly basis therefore why do they have the option to blackout stations that are on air for free if you don’t subscribe to a cable or satellite provider. ARE WE BEING HELD HOSTAGE FOR SUBSCRIBING TO CABLE/SATELLITE PROVIDERS. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE ELECTION DEBATES ARE HELD AND WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO FOLLOW CANDIATES.”
  • “Forget about losing our favorite television stations. The consumer is being blocked from local news, for which there is no excuse. Should a local emergency arise, blocking local channels could result in bodily harm and property damage which would lead to litigation and rightfully so. This simply has to stop. There IS an obligation to the consumer. It is a right and not a privilege to view my local stations, particularly when I am paying for it.”
  • “I work hard for my money and pay my bill to the satellite company so my retired dad can watch his favorite shows during the day, and I can come home in the evening and enjoy some favorite programs myself, including Wheel of Fortune and NCIS. Thanks to some broken down communications over which I had no control, we can no longer watch these and many other programs shown on our local channel 11 (CBS). It is not right for the consumer to be harmed due to the greed of large companies playing hardball with their contracts. Please fix these issues so we can get back to enjoying the programs we want.”

TV Blackout Crisis: Blackouts Hit a Record in 2015 As Broadcasters Rake In More Money from Viewers

TV blackouts hit a record in 2015, affecting over 12 million Americans. Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to nearly 600 broadcaster blackouts. Blackouts have soared in the past five years. ATVA began keeping track of broadcaster blackouts in 2010. Since that time there have been:

  • 14 Blackouts to date 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 over 50% of affiliates’ retrans payments will go to the networks.
  • SNL Kagan data shows that retrans fees are the fastest rising part of programming costs
  • According to an ATVA analysis of publicly available industry data and SNL Kagan data, 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.

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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.    

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