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Coalition Fights to Keep TV Viewers Plugged In During Retrans Negotiations

So the news is out that a 31 member coalition, consisting of consumer groups, cable operators, satellite providers, telcos, and independent programmers, has gotten together to challenge those situations when broadcast networks have held cable systems in a headlock during negotiations for carriage of their channels, meanwhile ignoring the interests of innocent TV viewers. Boy could my friends in Arlington have benefited from something like the American Television Alliance (ATVA) back in 2007 when they faced losing their ABC channels as Cox was deadlocked with that broadcast network during a retransmission consent battle.

Those were tense times.

According to a recent press release,

Alarmed by broadcasters’ increasing use of showdown tactics and brinksmanship that cause disruption, uncertainty and even television blackouts, an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable operators, satellite providers, telcos, and independent programmers have formed the American Television Alliance (ATVA) to give voice to consumers’ interests.  The mission of the new coalition, which officially launched today, is to ensure consumers are not harmed – or their favorite shows held hostage – in negotiations for carriage of broadcast programming.

The law that enabled broadcasters to withhold consent in the first place is 20 years old and was created in a different era when there weren’t as many options for viewing video content. Back then the FCC was eager to make sure people did not lose their broadcast signals since Cable was the only ticket in town.  As it is currently, broadcasters can cut off their television signals and shows from video service providers and consumers if they do not receive the compensation they demand. That is just not kosher.

I agree. It’s time to shake things up and stop making it easy for broadcasters to cut TV viewers off.

At a minimum, as Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn said in the release, the FCC should consider requiring interim carriage of over-the-air stations should a retransmission consent agreement expire while the parties are still negotiating.

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