Advocate for TV Viewers Submits Comments on FCC Good Faith Rule

Washington, D.C. – The American Television Alliance (ATVA) today submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the implementation of Section 103 of the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 – the proposed update to the good faith rules.  In conjunction with the comments, ATVA released a new infographic today, charting the record-setting number of consumer TV blackouts and runaway retransmission consent fees.

“Broadcasters deliberately blackout consumers and hold programming for ransom to extract massive fee increases that are ultimately borne by consumers.  From eight TV blackouts in 2010 to 189 so far this year affecting 12 million American homes – one of every eight pay-TV subscribers has been affected.  Retrans fees have increased 22,400% in the past decade, and more troubling, gone up 40% each of the last 3 years,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy.  “The current good faith rules are broken and do not protect consumers from harm.   We urge the FCC to consider the public’s interest when making good faith determinations.”

In legislation passed last year, Congress recognized that the existing rules and regulations governing retransmission consent negotiations are not working and directed the FCC to commence a rulemaking to examine what constitutes “good faith” in retransmission consent negotiations.  Now, the Commission must seize the opportunity to take decisive action to protect consumers from ever-escalating TV blackouts and programming costs and reform a broken retransmission consent system.

In its comments, ATVA proposes general and specific changes the FCC can and should implement using its existing authority, including:

  • The Commission should explicitly take the public interest into account in administering its rules.
  • The Commission should rely on labor law to a greater extent than it does, particularly with respect to blackouts where an MVPD has offered to “true up” payments upon conclusion of negotiations.
  • The Commission should prohibit seven practices identified by ATVA, including blocking internet content, forced bundling, and blackouts prior to marquee events, among others.

“In STELAR, Congress gave the Commission new, specific authority to address retransmission consent abuse,” said ATVA outside counsel Michael Nilsson of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP.  “We are confident that after the Commission conducts a thorough examination of the video marketplace, it will agree with our conclusions: the retransmission consent regime is broken and the FCC can take concrete, decisive steps to remedy the situation.”

ATVA’s comments to the FCC are available here.

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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.

For more information about ATVA, visit our website.  Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.