As broadcasters live it up in Las Vegas this week at the annual National Association of Broadcasters Show, here are ten questions about retransmission consent rules that they just don’t want to answer:
1. With more than 230 blackouts since the beginning of 2013, how can broadcasters say the market isn’t broken?
2. Wouldn’t consumers benefit if broadcasters were prohibited from blacking out must-see live sporting events during retransmission consent contract negotiations?
3. Broadcasters will take in $9.3 billion in retransmission consent fees for broadcast channels by 2020, according to SNL Kagan projections. That’s almost double the estimated $4.9 billion they received in 2014. Why is such a huge increase justified?
4. According to SNL Kagan, broadcasters are expected to pay the Big 4 Networks $1.53 billion in reverse retransmission consent in 2015. This figure is expected to reach $3.22 billion five years from now. How is funneling billions of dollars for Hollywood and New York produced entertainment and sports programming consistent with the congressionally intended purpose of retransmission consent: to support creation of local news and community programming content?
5. How can outdated retransmission consent regulations be justified when — despite the dramatic increase in fees paid to broadcasters — local stations are scaling back their investment in local news, consolidating news gathering efforts and cutting newsroom staff?
6. Given that there is only a 7% chance that a “local” television station is locally owned and that according to an FCC study 32% of local TV stations “did not air a single minute of news programming” why shouldn’t broadcast channels be treated like every other channel? Why do they deserve the regulatory advantages of must-buy and retrans that aren’t afforded other channel owners?
7. Why are consumers forced to pay for the same broadcast channels that are offered free over the air?
8. Why is CBS willing to make its local broadcast stations available online to broadband subscribers on an a la carte basis, but opposed along with other broadcasters to making it available to pay TV subscribers in same manner?
9. Customers of online services are able to decide whether they want to pay for broadcast networks. Why do broadcasters oppose bipartisan proposals for “local choice” reform that would give pay-TV customers the same choice?
10. Why is it acceptable for broadcasters to block their online services during retransmission consent disputes? Isn’t the FCC opposed to the blocking of online content?