Amid Record Blackouts and Soaring Fees, NAB Wants FCC Out of the Game
Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is running a Facebook advertising campaign urging Congress to allow STELAR to expire as Congress is considering legislation to reauthorize STELAR before the end of the year and prevent 870,000 TV viewers from losing access to their broadcast TV channels.
“Broadcasters are already bilking viewers out of nearly $12 billion in overpriced retransmission fees and subjecting Americans to the worst TV blackout year in history. They want Congress to pull the plug on 870,000 Americans in rural areas and kill FCC’s limited authority to ensure good faith negotiations. And now they’re running deceptive ads. Hopefully Congress and viewers aren’t buying it,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.
Since 2006, retrans fees have gone from about $215 million to $11.7 billion in 2019, an increase of 5,359 percent. As retrans fees and blackouts continue to break records, broadcasters are asking Congress to allow the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement authority during retransmission consent negotiations, known as “good-faith”, to expire at the end of the year. The provision is part of a law called STELAR (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act), which if not reauthorized, will cause as many as 870,000 satellite subscribers, many in the most rural areas of the country, to lose access to broadcast channels. RV enthusiasts who rely on distant signals as they travel from place to place, would also be adversely impacted if STELAR expires. Groups representing the entire RV industry along with other consumer groups have spoken out in support of reauthorizing STELAR before the end of the year.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recently introduced the Modern Television Act of 2019, a new bipartisan plan to end TV blackouts and bring America’s video laws into the 21st century. It is based on the principle that consumer choice, market forces and true competition are the best ways to increase quality and set fair prices for content. It is a serious proposal that deserves Congress’ attention and action.
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 1,000 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 1,000 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
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.