AT&T Files “Bad Faith” Complaint With FCC
20 Stations in 17 Cities Blacked Out
Washington, D.C. –AT&T has filed a “bad faith” complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against nine individual station owners that have collectively pulled 20 stations in 17 cities from DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and/or U-verse homes on May 30 and June 10.
The stations which are managed and controlled by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, are refusing to negotiate with AT&T. The blackout has impacted the NHL Stanley Cup, NBA Finals and U.S. Open, among other events. The broadcasters include Deerfield Media, GoCom Media of Illinois, Howard Stirk Holdings, Mercury Broadcast Group, MPS Media, Nashville License Holdings, Roberts Media, Second Generation of Iowa and Waitt Broadcasting. AT&T filed a “bad faith” complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on June 18.
Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recently reached an agreement on a legislative framework to end television blackouts. Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELAR). As many as 870,000 satellite subscribers, many in the most rural areas of the country, will lose access to broadcast channels if Congress fails to reauthorize STELAR. Allowing STELAR to expire will also end the FCC’s authority to enforce its “good faith” rules in regard to retransmission consent.
“This is another symptom of a broken system that’s fueling the blackout crisis and causing retrans fees to skyrocket. Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR to maintain the FCC’s authority to enforce “good faith” rules, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition,” Said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy.
The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government mandated broadcast carriage or must carry, and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent. Retransmission consent fees are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) are required to pay in order to carry broadcast TV channels. If demands for higher fees are not met, broadcasters pull their signals. A cable or satellite operator is not allowed to provide subscribers a broadcaster’s signal without permission, which allows broadcasters to use the threat of, or actual, blackouts to extort higher fees that are ultimately paid by subscribers.
Major rules governing the U.S. media marketplace were first written in 1934 and last updated for the media in the 1992 Cable Act. These rules were written at a time when the Internet was still in its infancy and multiple streaming options didn’t exist.
TV Blackout Crisis: 2017 Breaks Blackout Record as Broadcasters Rake in Billions from Viewers
Since 2010, millions of Americans have seen dark screens instead of watching their favorite channels due to more than 1,000 broadcaster-initiated blackouts. With 213 blackouts, 2017 was the worst year for TV blackouts on record.
- 65 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.