“Fox has sunk to a new low in its bullying tactics, blocking Cablevision customers from accessing Hulu and Fox websites. How much more outrageous do broadcasters have to get for Congress and the FCC to reform retransmission rules and protect consumers? The time for action is now. These latest abuses demonstrate how far broadcasters are willing to go to disenfranchise viewers.”
“Rejecting calls from Members of Congress and leading consumer groups, including the National Consumers League, Public Knowledge and Hispanic Federation, News Corporation’s Fox Broadcasting is still threatening to blackout out its broadcast stations to more than 3 million Cablevision customers in New York and Philadelphia beginning this weekend. This is yet another shakedown in which a broadcast network leverages outdated rules to strike out at viewers to gain the advantage in a business deal. Congress and the FCC need to fix rules that protect broadcasters more than viewers.
Earlier this week, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) called on Fox and Cablevision to submit to binding arbitration and not to remove programming during the negotiations. Fox has rejected that request out of hand. The National Consumers League wrote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, saying that ‘Consumers should not be used as leverage by big networks in these programming fights.’ Public Knowledge also wrote the chairman, reiterating its support for an ‘overhaul of the retransmission consent mechanism.’ The Hispanic Federation commented, ‘the Commission must intervene to fix a retransmission consent regime that no longer works – and to protect consumers who are caught in the middle.’”
“News Corporation is again holding viewers hostage, threatening to pull its FOX broadcast network from DISH and Cablevision subscribers. There will be no Glee for World Series and American Idol fans if News Corp. deprives viewers of watching these popular shows. To protect consumers from being held hostage during broadcast programming carriage disputes, the federal government must reform the current retransmission consent rules. We urge consumers to contact their Members of Congress and News Corp. to demand that local FOX stations stay on the air during business negotiations.”
By Kelly Riddell
Oct 11, 2010
TV blackouts in the U.S. have reached the highest level in a decade and may climb as pay-TV operators fight higher fees sought by content providers.
Disputes over fees have caused five blackouts this year, the most since 2000. They have affected about 19 million pay-TV subscribers, leaving some viewers without access to the Oscars and New York Knicks games. Dish Network Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp. and AT&T Inc. all lost programming while haggling over costs.
Feuds will escalate as pay-TV companies resist the increased fees they typically try to pass on to subscribers in the form of higher cable bills, said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG LLC in New York.
“During the pennant races, Fox has struck out at viewers across America. FOX’s blackout of regional sports networks and other cable channels from DISH Network puts consumers in the middle of a business dispute, the same tactic broadcast networks are using in retransmission negotiations with pay-TV providers.”
Washington, D.C. September 16, 2010– A diverse group of independent video programmers came to Washington today to ask Members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revamp retransmission consent rules. The non-broadcast affiliated programmers also sent letters to Members calling for action. The programmers add their voices to those of numerous consumer groups, elected officials, and cable, satellite and telephone companies.
We have seen a significant increase in interest on the Hill, particularly in last 18 months and it continues to build. Dozens of Members, from both sides of the aisle have written letters to the FCC. They are clearly seeing that consumers are being impacted by broadcasters’ threats and action. Something must be done to protect TV viewers.
Customers are consistently either threatened with the potential loss of signals, or they have to endure the actual loss of signals because the retransmission consent process is broken. The potential Time Warner Cable/Disney agreement doesn’t address the underlying problem that the broadcasters have the ability to put customers in a no-win situation. This is a real and growing problem, and one that should be reviewed by policymakers.
The Commission’s regulations governing retransmission consent- which were created nearly 20 years ago- are outdated and causing consumer harm. As broadcasters now demand significant cash for carriage of their signals, consumers are held hostage as MVPDs must choose between a rock and a hard place; pay spiraling carriage fees and raise consumer rates, or be forced by broadcasters to drop local signals. the recurring threats of blackout, high-stakes public “showdown” negotiations, and recent economic analyses have all confirmed what programming distributors have known for years; the retransmission consent regime is broken. In light of this consumer harm, and given substantial changes in the media landscape since the retransmission consent regime was first created, it is time to take a new look at the rules that have given rise to this problem. ABC’s recent withdrawal of its programming from three million Cablevision subscribers in New York- which briefly interfered with the broadcast of the Academy Awards and caused significant frustration and confusion for consumers- is only the latest illustration of the urgent need for reform. As Senator Kerry recently wrote to chairman Genachowski, “the retransmission consent regime has become outdated in the 18 years since is was crafted,” and this regime is now causing “consumer uncertainty, higher prices, and broadcasters using special events as leverage in negotiations.” Accordingly, pursuant to 47 C.F.R § 1.401, the petitioning parties respectfully petition the Commission to amend and supplement its rules governing retransmission consent as set forth herein.