The National Association of Broadcasters has an absurd quote in a Hollywood Reporter article this morning.
“It’s perfectly reasonable for CBS to be getting considerably more retransmission money than TNT,” says a spokesman for the NAB, which represents the broadcast networks. “CBS runs first-run programming and TNT essentially re-runs shows from CBS and other broadcasters much of the time.”
Where to begin?
First, consider that CBS has been gifted – by the American people – free spectrum to send its signal. That spectrum is highly coveted and highly valuable. In the case of CBS, its spectrum has been valued at $5.4 billion. CBS and other broadcasters receive that spectrum because they are supposed to provide programming that is valuable to the public – more on that below. TNT did not receive such a gift.
Second, viewers can receive CBS over-the-air for free, but not TNT. So because some consumers want to receive cable networks like TNT, they end up having to pay for what’s free over-the-air. It’s essentially a tax on some consumer’s TV watching. A TV tax, if you will.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the whole purpose of retransmission consent was supposed to be protecting local broadcasters and local programming. When the NAB was lobbying for the retransmission consent system back in 1991, they specifically said, “Retransmission consent is not a network issue.” Look at NAB’s quote- where are the mentions of local and public affairs programming? Is there any more damning bit of evidence that it is a network issue and that the NAB’s localism claims are just a bunch of smoke and mirrors?
The NAB can continue to try to fool everyone into thinking that retransmission consent is about localism, but as its members try to wrest more and more money from consumers for ever-more expensive network programming, it’s clear what retrans really is: a TV tax subsidizing the networks.