Washington, D.C. November 17, 2010 – Today’s Senate hearing marks a major step forward in reforming out-of-date government regulations, which have created an artificial market tilted towards broadcasters. It was clear from the testimony and the growing threat of blackouts, which are at the highest level in a decade, that the time for action is now. ATVA commends Senators Kerry, Ensign, Hutchinson and Rockefeller for holding this important hearing and kicking off the process to reform these laws. We look forward to working with Congress and the FCC to make the necessary changes to balance the scales and protect consumers.
During the hearing, cable providers consistently reiterated that retransmission consent is not negotiated in a free market. Tom Rutledge, Chief Operating Officer of Cablevision Systems Corporation noted that, “negotiations take place within a highly regulated environment that heavily favors broadcasters over distributors, and hurts consumers. Plain and simple, the rules create the potential for network television blackouts and raise prices for consumers. Because government laws created the problem, only the government – the FCC or Congress – can fix it. ”
Glenn Britt, Chairman, President and CEO of Time Warner Cable, noted that these rules are out of date and were created for a much different telecommunications landscape. “Congress created retransmission consent 18 years ago as a new property right to subsidize free, over-the-air broadcasting. Much has changed since that time.”
Additionally, Charles Segar, CEO of Ovation, an independent television network, pointed to how retransmission consent laws restrict competition within the marketplace, hurting independent programming. Segar said, “Retransmission has enabled primarily the largest broadcast companies to bundle an excess of channels, eating up valuable bandwidth and taking more than their fair share of fees that would otherwise be available in a free market system.”
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 viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy. ATVA filed a petition with the FCC requesting a rulemaking on retransmission rules.