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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.

E&C Committee Misses Opportunity to Make Real Reforms in STELAR Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) released the following statement in response to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s failure to address retransmission consent reform as part of STELAR reauthorization. 

“ATVA is disappointed the Committee didn’t take the opportunity to reform a broken system for all consumers that is causing record TV blackouts and skyrocketing retrans fees,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA Spokesman.  “We appreciate Representatives Scalise and Eshoo for their strong leadership and commitment to modernizing laws to reflect today’s competitive video market and put the interests of consumers first.”

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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.

FCC Uses Authority Granted in STELAR to Condemn Broadcasters for Acting in Bad Faith

Broadcasters Seeking to Kill FCC Power to Decide what Are “Good Faith” Negotiations

WASHINGTON, DC – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today condemned nine broadcast station groups calling their actions “egregious” for refusing to act in “good faith” during a retransmission consent negotiation.  The FCC’s authority to protect consumers against this kind of anti-consumer behavior is included in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR) which will expire at the end of the year if Congress fails to act. 

 “The FCC today took a strong and decisive stand for TV viewers and consumers, which should underscore why it is so critical for them to continue to be the arbiter for good faith negotiations on retransmission consent,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Broadcasters want to kill the FCC’s ability to referee these negotiations, but today’s decision should remind everyone why it is so important that there be a fair judge.  Congress must renew current law and strengthen the FCC’s “good faith” authority or American TV viewers are going to suffer more blackouts and runaway cable and satellite TV fees.”

Since 2006, retrans fees have gone from about $215 million to $11.7 billion in 2019, an increase of 5,359%.  Consumers have endured 276 broadcaster blackouts in 2019, a new record. 

TV Blackout Crisis: Over 1,300 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 1,300 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S.

  • 276 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

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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.

ATVA Applauds Senator Wicker for Introducing Satellite Television Access Reauthorization

870,000 Americans Should Not be Threatened with a TV Blackout

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today applauded Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) for introducing The Satellite Television Access Reauthorization (STAR Act), legislation that would prevent a TV blackout of 870,000 Americans and protect the FCC’s “good faith” authority during retransmission consent negotiations. 

“ATVA applauds Senator Wicker for his leadership on this important issue.  870,000 families across the country shouldn’t suffer a Congressional TV blackout, but that is exactly what will happen if Congress fails to act.  We urge the committee to not only renew the current law but to fix this broken system that has brought record blackouts and allowed broadcasters to raise fees paid by cable and satellite customers by more than 5,000%. Enough is enough,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman. 

The Following Groups are in Support of Reauthorizing STELAR:

ACA Connects Consumer Policy Solutions National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Altice Consumer Reports New America
AT&T CWA – Communication Workers of America NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association
bendbroadband Dish Open Technology Institute at New America
CALInnovates Frontier Communications Parents Television Council
century link Golden West Telecommunications Public Knowledge
CFIF – Center for Individual Freedom Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership Revolt
Charter Spectrum IBEW – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers RideTV
Cinemoi Internet Innovation Alliance SBCA – Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association
Common Cause ITTA – The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers The National Grange
Consumer Action MAVTV USTelecom
Consumer Federation of America Mediacom Verizon
WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband

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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.