News Corp. is circulating a letter on the Hill that is inaccurate and misleading. Most disingenuous is the statement that “The system in place has worked well for nearly two decades, to the benefit of viewers.” Tell that to the 3 million households blacked out for the fourth day in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Philadelphia and the millions more who may lose the World Series and other programs if Fox carries out its November 1 threat against DISH Network. Also today, the National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement stating that “Retransmission consent is the fair, market-based negotiation process.”
Below is ATVA’s fact check of the Fox letter and NAB statement (ATVA fact check in bold):
FOX Letter: As the retransmission consent negotiations between Cablevision and Fox over carriage of Fox programming continue, I urge you to refrain from intervening. As you know, these negotiations attempt to achieve a very delicate balance between two sizeable media companies. Please do not put the heavy thumb of the government on one side of the scale or the other.
NAB Statement: Retransmission consent is the fair, market-based negotiation process
ATVA: The heavy thumb of government is already on the scale, in broadcasters’ favor. Existing regulations give broadcasters not only free spectrum to distribute their signals, but also a government-granted local monopoly that makes it impossible for Cablevision to get this programming from another source.
FOX Letter: As with any business negotiation, talks about the terms of retransmission consent can, at times, get quite contentious with each side seeking the upper hand.
ATVA: Consumers should not be used as pawns in a business dispute and lose their programming, including local news and weather, while negotiations continue.
FOX Letter: Any government intervention would not only skew this process, but would color all future retransmission consent negotiations.
ATVA: Government has already skewed the process. So, the government should either fix it or get out by removing existing regulations.
FOX Letter: The marketplace has changed greatly since the 1992 Cable Act created the retransmission consent regime, much to the benefit of the viewers. Today, there are multiple multichannel video
programming distributors (MVPDs) and other content viewing options available to consumers that were not available in 1992.
ATVA: True. But the existence of multiple distributors makes it easy for FOX to threaten to withhold its programming from Cablevision and scare consumers into switching to another provider. And FOX is likely repeat their blackout threats when they negotiate other contracts in the future. As a result, consumers can face losing signals regardless of which pay TV provider they switch to. Consumers should be able to rely on seeing their local broadcast signals.
FOX Letter: In many markets, including those covered in this current negotiation, consumers can view content from a cable operator, two satellite providers, two telephone companies, the Internet (ATVA: except that Fox blocked Cablevision’s Internet subscribers from watching Fox shows online)
FOX Letter: This is a vibrant and competitive market. Two players in this market space are in the middle of private, commercial negotiations.
ATVA: Just not true. Congress wrote the law. The FCC set the rules.
FOX Letter: The system in place has worked well for nearly two decades, to the benefit of viewers (ATVA: then why are Cablevision subscribers in the dark?), MVPDs and content owners.
FOX Letter: There is no justification for government intervention.
ATVA: Again, the government already intervened in 1992. They should either fix the rules that skew the process or get out by removing existing regulations.