Taxpayer Group Raises Red Flags on Senate Retransmission Consent Hearing

The 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the nation’s oldest taxpayer advocacy organization, today urged Senate Commerce Committee Members to spend their Wednesday hearing exploring how to untangle the complicated web of preferences and regulations that have made a mess of television retransmission consent negotiations, rather than resorting to greater government intervention in the marketplace.

The Commerce Committee hearing is, in part, a response to the well-publicized 16-day blackout of Fox programs experienced by New York-area Cablevision customers. As a result, some on the Committee have pushed for a legislative remedy that empowers the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to insert itself more directly into the negotiation process as an arbitrator.

“The problem is not that the FCC lacks authority to intervene, but that a slew of poorly-designed rules nearly two decades old prevent geographic competition and encourage episodes of brinksmanship like the Fox-Cablevision fight,” said NTU Director of Government Affairs Andrew Moylan. “The rules governing retransmission consent were designed to shield content providers from a cable monopoly that no longer exists, and now those providers are exploiting that protection to the fullest.”

Moylan urged Committee members to resist the notion that the best resolution to this problem is for government to “rearrange the regulatory deck chairs,” as has been proposed by some interests on both sides of the dispute. “The ‘thumb on the scale’ model that governs retransmission consent is outdated and needs reform,” Moylan concluded. “However, the solution is not more government manipulation, but for Congress to embark on a comprehensive rewrite of telecommunications law that allows both television service providers and content providers to operate in a truly free and open negotiation environment.”

The National Taxpayers Union has long advocated for a pro-consumer, free-market approach to telecommunications law that neither punishes nor gives special treatment to any entity.

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels.

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