ATVA Responds to Stimulus Funding for Broadcast Conglomerates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ATVA responded to the passage of a new coronavirus relief package, which included a bail-out of America’s largest broadcast conglomerates.

“The latest stimulus package has now made stimulus funds which were originally intended for small businesses–available to some of the largest broadcast conglomerates in America, like Nexstar, TEGNA, and Sinclair,” stated ATVA spokesperson, Jessica Kendust. “These big broadcasters have reported huge profits this year and now they are positioned to reap millions of dollars each in a handout from taxpayers. We hope that these large and profitable companies understand the public service obligations expected of those demanding taxpayer support – obligations they should keep in mind when deciding whether to black out the ‘locally focused or emergency information’ that Congress is seeking to protect.”

Congress created PPP loans to provide relief from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Large broadcast conglomerates have qualified for the program by counting only the number of employees at each individual station. These large station groups do much more than franchise their trademarks to individual stations. By law, they must control each station, including its personnel, programming, and finances. In addition, these same parent firms routinely decide to blackout their stations to consumers as part of retransmission fee negotiations.

Even during the pandemic, broadcasters continued to use blackouts as a bargaining chip against consumers while negotiating retransmission consent fees. In the last month, both TEGNA and Nexstar forced record-breaking blackouts of millions of DISH and AT&T customers in an effort to increase fees. These recent broadcaster blackouts removed 240 stations in 44 states around the country.

“These blackouts should never have happened. And now that taxpayers are subsidizing these broadcasters’ already-profitable operations, they must stop using these tactics,” stated Kendust.

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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.

ATVA Responds to Nexstar’s Record Breaking Blackout of DISH Customers

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tonight, ATVA responded to the week’s latest broadcast blackout – this time imposed by Nexstar and impacting millions of DISH subscribers across the country. Nexstar’s signal disruption, began this evening and has resulted in the largest blackout in TV history – affecting 164 local stations across 120 markets in 42 states and Washington, D.C. 
 
“This record-breaking blackout is not only exploitative, but also an endangerment to the health and safety of countless Americans who rely on their local news for up-to-date coronavirus information,” stated Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokesperson.
 
Nexstar’s blackout is just another in a series of broadcast blackouts this holiday season.  On Tuesday evening, Tegna pulled the signal of more than 60 local stations in 52 markets from AT&T users.
 
“We thought the ongoing global pandemic may have curbed big broadcast from leveraging consumer access during retrans negotiations. Unfortunately, two separate major blackouts this week alone have proven us wrong,” stated Kendust. 

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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.

ATVA Responds to TEGNA Blackouts Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ATVA responded to Tuesday’s blackout of more than 60 local stations in 52 markets by TEGNA, impacting AT&T subscribers across the country.
 
“It is alarming, albeit unsurprising, that TEGNA is profiteering off of the need for local news at a time as critical as during a national pandemic,” stated Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokesperson.
 
TEGNA pulled its signal from DirectTV and AT&T U-verse customers at 7 P.M. ET on Dec. 1, after the existing retransmission consent agreement between TEGNA and AT&T had expired. The stations TEGNA pulled from subscribers include ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW, and a number of local and independent stations.
 
This blackout comes on the heels of TEGNA’s record-breaking Q3 revenues. 
 
“Following a self-reported revenue of $738 million in 2020’s third quarter, TEGNA’s demand for astronomical retransmission fees on the backs of American consumers is baffling,” stated Kendust. “ATVA is disappointed that TEGNA is ignoring the public interest to weaponize blackouts as a negotiation bargaining chip.” 
 

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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.

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ATVA Statement on FCC’s Decision to Impose Unprecedented Retransmission Negotiation Fines

Proposed $9 Million Fine Underscores Need To End Broadcaster Blackouts

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today responded to the FCC’s vote to deny an appeal of its good-faith retransmission negotiation decision and in addition propose unprecedented fines on the associated broadcasters totaling more than $9 million. 

“ATVA applauds the FCC’s recognition of the need for serious reform regarding the retransmission negotiations process. We are pleased to see retransmission consent taken seriously in this case,” stated Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokesperson. “The flagrant abuse and misconduct described in this order are not only typical, but unfortunately, increasingly common by broadcasters during retrans negotiations. Broadcasters’ weaponization of station blackouts during negotiations is costing consumers billions every year. We hope that this decision and these fines totaling more than $9 million represent the first step of a broader reexamination of the broken retransmission consent marketplace.”

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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.

ATVA’s Statement On Apollo’s Blackout Of DISH Customers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, Apollo Global Management blacked out DISH customers’ access to its channels in 10 markets across the country.


“It is disappointing to hear that Apollo Global Management, an international private equity firm, is prioritizing greed over providing consumers with access to important local news and content,” stated Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokesperson. “Now more than ever, customers need access to local programming to stay informed and ensure their families’ health and well-being. ATVA had hoped that a global pandemic might make broadcasters think twice about weaponizing their content during negotiations. Unfortunately, we were wrong.”

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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.

ATVA: Individual Television Stations Do Not “Operate Independently” of Large Station Group Owners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress established the new Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) to provide relief to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees from suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Broadcasters are seeking their own special exception to the program by changing the criteria to make each individual television station in the country its own “business.”  This would allow all television stations eligible to compete for funding against the small businesses that PPP was devised to help—even though most television stations are owned and operated by large, publicly traded companies like Hearst, Meredith Corporation, Nexstar, Sinclair, and TEGNA.

“Some who support this argue that even though stations are owned by larger groups, they ‘operate independently.’  Our members at ATVA know that this is just not true,” stated Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokesperson. “When ATVA’s cable, satellite, and telco members negotiate carriage agreements with stations owned by large station groups, they never deal with ‘independently operated’ stations.  They always deal with corporate headquarters.”

Under the law, a station cannot truly “operate independently” of its owner. The Communications Act prohibits the transfer of control of an FCC license without prior authorization. The FCC determines who “controls” a license by looking at who controls programming, personnel, and finances.  The ultimate owners of FCC licenses can delegate certain day to day operations to others, so long as they retain control with respect to these factors,  but a station cannot “operate independently” in any meaningful sense without making decisions about programming, personnel, and finances. 

Broadcasters also recently convinced the FCC to eliminate the “main studio rule,” which required stations to maintain a physical presence in their local communities.  So not only are affiliates not truly“independently operated” but many have no local news facilities at all.

“NAB is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts. There is nothing in the SBA PPP that prohibits a small business broadcaster from participating, and ATVA would never advocate against truly small business broadcasters’ eligibility for relief. Period. If you have less than 500 employees you are, and should be, eligible,” stated Kendust.  “However, the majority of ‘local’ stations are owned by parent media conglomerates and they should not get a special deal.”

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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.

ATVA Urges Congress to Reject Broadcasters’ Proposal Seeking Small Business Relief Funds

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today urged Congress to reject a National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) proposal to allow television station conglomerates to qualify for coronavirus relief intended for small businesses.
 
Congress established the new Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) to provide relief to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the NAB wants to change the rules to allow large station groups like Hearst, TEGNA, Sinclair, and Nexstar to participate. “The PPP was designed by Congress to provide relief to small businesses in need, and is already stretched beyond its initial funding limitations” stated Jessica Kendust, ATVA spokesperson. “For NAB to suggest that even its very largest members be eligible for these funds once replenished, is not only misguided, but harmful to those who need it the most.”
 
NAB now wants to change the criteria so that each individual television station constitutes its own “business” for eligibility. However, the vast majority of television stations are not individually operated but are instead owned and controlled by large station groups.
 
Recently, these large station groups convinced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to eliminate a rule requiring television stations to maintain physical presence and significant personnel in their local communities. Under NAB’s proposal, not only would large conglomerates qualify for loans intended for struggling small businesses, they would do so even in markets where they have no staff and essentially operate by remote control.
 
“These conglomerates are obviously not ‘small businesses,’ nor are they simply collections of stations operating independently. In reality, corporate owners do—and by law must—control every material aspect of the stations they own and operate,” stated Kendust. “ATVA members have come to understand this reality through hard experience. When negotiating for the rights to carry television stations owned by these conglomerates, they negotiate not with individual stations but rather the large corporate headquarters of companies like Hearst, TEGNA, Sinclair, and Nexstar – resulting in increasingly sky-high retransmission consent fees for consumers.  I urge our leaders in Congress to see through NAB’s misguided proposal and to direct PPP funds to the small businesses they were intended for. ”
 

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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.

Hearst TV Threatens NFL Wild Card Round

34 Local Broadcast Stations in 26 Markets Go Dark for DIRECTV & AT&T TV 
Golden Globes Also Threatened

Washington, D.C. – Hearst Television on January 3 at 5 p.m. EST pulled 34 stations in 26 markets from DIRECTV and AT&T TV customers, threatening the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs in millions of homes. Two of the impacted markets — Des Moines IA and Louisville KY — could lose tonight’s NFL Wild Card matchup between the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots on CBS. Eleven other markets could miss Sunday’s January 5 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles — including nearby Harrisburg, PA.  In addition to playoff football, many TV fans could also miss the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on NBC Sunday night. 

Last year, TV fans endured 281 broadcaster blackouts, a new all-time high record.  Live televised college and pro football games are the most frequently targeted and blacked out programming category and are often used by broadcasters in retransmission fee negotiations as “deal leverage” to extort higher fees from consumers.  According to industry research by Kagan, retrans fees have gone from about $215 million in 2006 to $11.7 billion in 2019, an increase of 5,359 percent.    

“The American Television Alliance calls on Hearst TV to immediately end its TV blackout of DIRECTV and AT&T TV customers.  Instead of tuning into the biggest games of the season, football fans across the country are getting a blank screen,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.

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: Over 1,200 Blackouts since 2010 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 1,200 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S. 

  • 26 blackouts to date in 2020
  • 281 blackouts in 2019 
  • 165 blackouts in 2018 
  • 213 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

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.

FCC’s Apollo Decision Will Lead to Higher Prices for Consumers, Says ATVA

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today released the following statement in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to allow Apollo Global Management’s takeover of TV and radio stations owned by Cox Enterprises and Northwest Broadcasting:   

“The FCC’s approval of Apollo’s acquisition of Northwest and Cox demonstrates why we need Congress to act to reform retransmission consent.  FCC rules prohibit Apollo from acquiring two of the “top-four” rated television stations in a single market.   Apollo has agreed to sell stations in two markets to avoid application of this rule.  At the same time, though, it will transfer the programming of the “top-four” rated television stations to a multicast stream on the stations it is keeping.  Although Apollo won’t technically violate the rules, the harm remains the same.  They will own two “top-four” broadcasts in these markets, which will lead to higher prices for consumers. It is far past time for Congress to intervene on behalf of consumers.  We urge it to do so as it considers STELAR renewal.”

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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.