ATVA Applauds the FCC’s Proposed Fine Against Gray Television

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) applauds the FCC for proposing to fine Gray Television more than $500,000 for violating the commission’s local ownership rules.  

“We agree with the FCC that Gray’s manipulation of the local ownership rules was an egregious ‘evasion’ that warrants this fine,” stated ATVA spokesperson, Jessica Kendust. “We hope that today’s action is only the beginning of a much closer look at these issues – including consideration of closing all of the otherloopholes that broadcasters use to evade the rules.”

The FCC’s local ownership rules prohibit a single entity from owning more than one of the top-four rated stations in a single market. Gray owns two full power stations (including the NBC affiliate) and one low power station in Alaska. According to the FCC, Gray purchased the assetsof the CBS Anchorage affiliate and began carrying CBS programming on its second full power affiliate. The FCC called this an “evasion” of its local ownership rules, and it was right to do so. 

“Gray’s attempt to cure its violation in Anchorage by then moving the CBS programming from its full power station to the low power station and another feed on its NBC station is just another workaround broadcasters employ to exploit the system,” stated Kendust. “We urge the FCC to close these additional loopholes.”

ATVA Applauds Scalise and Eshoo for Introduction of Modern Television Act of 2021

Legislation Will Bring Nation’s Video Laws into 21st Century

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today applauded Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) for the reintroduction of the Modern Television Act.

“We applaud Representatives Scalise and Eshoo for their bipartisan leadership and commitment to modernizing the nation’s video laws,” said ATVA spokesperson Jessica Kendust. “The Modern Television Act of 2021 will bring badly outdated video laws into the 21st century and correct dysfunction in the marketplace that artificially inflates prices for consumers and causes service disruptions.”

“After broadcasters set records for retransmission blackouts during a public health crisis over the last year, it is more urgent than ever this legislation be advanced,” Kendust continued. “We commend Representatives Eshoo and Scalise for their foresight and understanding that now is the time to update this nearly 30-year-old system for the benefit of American television consumers.”

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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 Launches Campaign Against Apollo-Cox Super Bowl Blackout: “Don’t Let Wall Street Black Out Main Street”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) released the following statement Friday announcing the launch of an advertising campaign against an egregious broadcast blackout of Cox Media Group stations owned by private equity giant Apollo Global Management.

“Consumers who won’t be able to watch the big game this weekend and who are losing access to their local news deserve to know greedy Wall Street fat cats are behind this broadcast blackout,” said ATVA spokeswoman Jessica Kendust. “ATVA’s campaign will help ensure consumers know this blackout is a contrived tactic being used by Wall Street giant Apollo Global Management to hold the Super Bowl hostage in order to boost their bottom line.”

“Our campaign asks consumers to help stop this egregious service interruption by telling Apollo and their Cox stations not to let Wall Street black out Main Street,” Kendust continued. “We also hope policymakers in Washington are taking notice of Apollo and Cox’s behavior and will advance consumer- first television reforms to crack down on this type of egregious price-gouging.”

ATVA’s advertising campaign will target five media markets impacted by the Apollo-Cox blackout as well as Washington, D.C. Markets impacted by the blackout include Seattle, Washington; Yuma, Arizona; Eureka, California; Greenville, Mississippi; and Dayton, Ohio.

Read ATVA’s filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the Apollo-Cox blackout HERE.

Read more on the Apollo-Cox blackout holding the Super Bowl hostage HERE.


Read more on Cox Media Group’s recent blackouts and history of targeting the Super Bowl with blackouts to price-gouge consumers HERE.

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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 Filing Hammers Wall Street Giant Apollo and Cox for Denying Consumers “Shared Experience That is Truly American” to Extort Fees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the American Television Alliance (ATVA) filed a Notice of Ex Parte with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) outlining the egregious behavior of private equity firm Apollo Global Management and its Cox Media Group subsidiaries in interrupting broadcast service for consumers in five markets to hold the Super Bowl hostage and extort higher fees.

“In two days, more than 150 million Americans will sit down to watch Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl … Fox News described the Super Bowl as “a shared experience that is truly American,” the filing reads. “Yet the New York private equity giant Apollo Global Management has directed its Cox Media Group subsidiary to pull CBS stations from tens of thousands of AT&T customers. Viewers in Seattle, Dayton, Yuma, Eureka, and Greenwood Mississippi who have done nothing wrong will thus miss the Super Bowl on AT&T’s video platforms.”

“Apollo Global has chosen to use the moment in which it can inflict maximum harm on viewers in order to extract maximum fees well into the future,” the filing continues. “Apollo Global, in other words, is engaging less in a negotiation than in a shakedown.”

“Worse yet, Apollo Global has used loopholes in the Commission’s local media ownership rules to control multiple network television feeds in places like Yuma and Eureka. And in Greenwood, Apollo Global controls all four major network feeds,” the letter states. “So, with the flick of a switch, Apollo Global has turned off all network programming to AT&T subscribers in Mississippi… Apollo Global’s control of all network programming in Greenwood provides it leverage to command higher retransmission consent fees, not just to AT&T subscribers in Greenwood, but in all of Apollo Global’s markets.”

“This is intolerable. No broadcaster—whether owned by a private equity giant like Apollo Global or, more rarely these days, a mom-and-pop company—should be allowed to black out marquee events like the Super Bowl,” ATVA’s filing adds. “And no broadcaster should be permitted to evade the Commission’s local media ownership rules to control two “top-four” networks in a market, much less all four such networks.

Read the full letter as filed with the FCC HERE.


Read more on the Apollo and Cox blackout holding the Super Bowl hostage HERE.

When Private Equity Collides with Public Interest: Unpacking the Audacious Apollo, Cox Super Bowl Blackout

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) released the following statement Thursday further unpacking an audacious Apollo Global Management and Cox Media Group blackout which aims to cause maximum disruption and pain to consumers in five media markets and hold the Super Bowl hostage in order to extract exorbitant fees.

“Apollo Global Management, a mammoth New York private equity fund, has pulled its Cox Media Group subsidiary’s local broadcast stations from AT&T — less than a week before the Super Bowl,” said ATVA spokeswoman Jessica Kendust. “This means AT&T customers in a great NFL city like Seattle or football- mad Dayton, Ohio risk missing the biggest game of the year.”

“But it gets worse — In some cities like Yuma, Arizona and Eureka, California, Apollo controls multiple Big Four network affiliations, while in Greenville, Mississippi Apollo controls all four national broadcast network feeds,” Kendust said. “So, with the flick of a switch, Apollo has not only cut off all national network programming to AT&T subscribers in the Greenville market, but also most local TV news in the midst of a public health crisis in one of the 15 states with the most confirmed COVID cases per residents.

“This is a particularly brazen assault on consumers and profiteering that defies any reconciliation with broadcast industry promises to avoid service interruptions during the pandemic and vacuous claims that even the largest broadcasters, like Apollo needed stimulus funds to ‘preserve local news,’” Kendust added. “We urge the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to prevent this sort of local consolidation and concentration of power, but pay-me-now players like Apollo have exploited every loophole and lobbied hard to eliminate any accountability whatsoever.”

“Apollo’s out-and-out price-gouging shows why these rules must be protected, strengthened and actually enforced to eliminate a stampede of greed at American consumers’ expense,” Kendust added.

In March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was escalating in the United States, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President Gordon Smith acknowledged the industry had a public interest duty to limit retransmission blackouts during the public health crisis:

“I don’t speak for every individual company and their economic decision, I know I have heard on calls with our executive committee and individual members that they recognize the public responsibility to not have service interruptions during this time… As has been the case whenever there is a national emergency, broadcasters don’t want to see service interruptions of any kind.“

Those comments didn’t age well given there were a record-breaking number of retransmission blackouts in 2020 — more than in 2019 — and that Big Broadcast is already continuing to brazenly wield blackouts at the start of 2021 – as the pandemic continues.

Read more on the ongoing Cox Media Group and Apollo Global Management blackouts HERE. Read more on big broadcasters’ claims to need COVID-19 stimulus relief to serve consumers HERE.

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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 Cox Blackout Holding Super Bowl Hostage for Fifth Time

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ATVA responded to a Cox Media Group blackout targeting a total of 20 media markets — including Seattle and four smaller media markets where the blackout holds Sunday’s Super Bowl hostage to extract exorbitant fees. It’s now at least the fifth time Cox-owned stations have either threatened or withdrawn the Super Bowl after previous retransmission consent blackouts involving Charter Spectrum, DISH Network, Verizon FIOS, CableOne and AT&T.

“This latest contrived blackout holding such an important national event like the Super Bowl hostage demonstrates how broadcasters like Cox Media Group intentionally cause maximum disruption and harm for consumers in order to extract exorbitant fees,” said ATVA spokeswoman Jessica Kendust. “The price-gouging behavior of broadcasters like Cox has become increasingly shameless and exploitative and demands action from policymakers in Washington.”

“There’s a very clear correlation between the explosion of broadcast blackouts over the past decade and the fact that station fees have soared more than seven-fold at consumers’ expense,” Kendust said. “However, these outlandish and unnecessary increases have zero relationship to the waning popularity of stations involved, proving the current retransmission consent laws are not only unbalanced but entirely broken. Policymakers need to modernize this law to better protect the American consumer and hold broadcasters accountable to their public interest obligations rather than continue allowing broadcasters to weaponize their station licenses and government-granted exclusivities.”

“Even during a public health crisis, broadcasters have increasingly relied on underhanded retransmission blackouts to price-gouge American television consumers,” Kendust continued. “Policymakers simply must hold broadcasters, like Cox, accountable for these egregious practices by advancing consumer-friendly broadcast distribution reforms.”

In 2020, broadcasters doubled down on their use of retransmission blackouts to extort American consumers who rely on cable or satellite for their television service. There were a record-breaking 342 blackouts in 2020 compared to 278 in 2019.

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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

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.