Eliminating the top-four Prohibition Rule Will Lead to Higher Consumer Prices, warns ATVA

ATVA Calls for Elimination of Existing Loopholes and FCCInvestigation of “Sidecar” Sharing Arrangements

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today provided the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with overwhelming evidence that so-called top-four duopolies lead to higher prices for consumers. ATVA asked the FCC to not only reject any consideration of relaxing its “top-four prohibition” but also eliminate all existing loopholes and investigate “sidecar” sharing arrangements among broadcasters. 

“The system is already rigged in favor of the broadcasters and their proposal will only make the blackout crisis worse,” said Trent Duffy, ATVA spokesman.  “Instead, we hope the FCC and Congress will focus their attention on fixing the broken system that has allowed broadcasters to jack up fees on consumers and blackout their favorite programming for more than a decade.”  

Broadcasters have argued that Commission should ignore retransmission consent issues entirely in considering changes to its local ownership rules.  ATVA disagrees.  

  • The Commission has undertaken in this proceeding to weigh all of the costs and benefits of changes to the top-four prohibition.  This undertaking comports with multiple statutory directives, including the specific statutory provision under which this proceeding is to be conducted. 
  • Retransmission consent price increases are a recognized cost to be weighed in this analysis.  Retransmission consent price increases lead directly to consumer rate hikes. Consumer price increases, in turn, rank among the principal public-interest harms the Commission seeks to avoid.  
  • Where loopholes already permit so-called top-four duopolies, the record evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that they increase retransmission consent prices.  This evidence includes:
  • Commission rulemaking and merger precedent. 
    • Department of Justice findings. 
    • Analyst statements.
    • Broadcaster conduct such as transferring network affiliation to low-power stations, which harm over-the-air viewers, and can best be explained if they produce countervailing economic benefits such as higher retransmission consent prices. 

See ATVA’s full comments here

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 an estimated 1,069 broadcaster-initiated blackouts.  Blackouts have affected consumers in nearly every congressional district and media market across the U.S. 

  • 41 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.

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