For many years, the American Cable Association has warned that the retransmission consent regime is broken, socking consumers with higher bills and sudden TV station blackouts on the eve of major viewing events that millions of Americans don't want to miss.
ACA is pleased that so many are now starting to listen. Reforming retransmission consent is a national priority because a surging mass of consumers across the country has come to see that the regulatory framework for access to broadcast signals adopted nearly 20 years ago is badly outdated and causing more harm than good. On March 3, the Federal Communications Commission took an historic first step by opening a rulemaking on retransmission consent, thus permitting ACA to document the many ways this regulatory framework permits TV station owners to abuse their market power.
ACA believes that true retransmission consent reform will not be achieved unless the concerns of small cable providers are addressed. Needed are rules that prevent broadcasters from charging discriminatory fees to small cable providers without any cost-based justification and rules that stop multiple TV stations from by entering into collusive arrangements to negotiate retransmission consent jointly in order to gain even more bargaining leverage over small cable companies.
Broadcasters like to say that retransmission consent is working fine because 99% of the deals get done without any fuss. If you're an ACA member in a blackout battle, a statistic like 99% is absolutely meaningless. As of this writing, Entravision-owned WUNI continues to withhold its Univision signal from Full Channel TV, an ACA member in Rhode Island with about 7,000 customers. WUNI gratuitously pulled its signal on Feb. 18 after Full Channel balked at paying 33% more for retransmission consent and declined onerous demands for multichannel and high-definition format distribution.
Telling a Full Channel customer that 99% of retrans deals get done quietly is like telling passengers on the Titanic that the captain avoided 99% of the icebergs.
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