ATVA: CBS 'Cash-Grab' Threatens 'Frosty the Snowman'

The American Television Alliance whose members include hundreds of cable systems and major satellite operators, has renewed its call for the government to reform "outdated and broken video laws."

In the wake of CBS stations coming off Dish Network two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, ATVA put the blame squarely on CBS and said it should restore the signals ASAP. ATVA said the company was willing to block CBS's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the annual airing of  'Frosty the Snowman' and NFL football, all Thanksgiving traditions, in "an obvious cash grab." 

ATVA said it was past time for Congress and the FCC to "protect consumers from broadcaster blackouts and higher fees by reforming outdated and broken video laws.”

Those would be the retransmission consent rules that ATVA says should be changed to prevent blackouts require arbitration of impasses.

CBS emphasized the loss of football in its statement on the retrans battle, saying: "Dish subscribers are in jeopardy of being without CBS over the Thanksgiving holiday, which would mean they would miss CBS Sports’ NFL and SEC football coverage beginning Thursday, Nov. 23, with the Thanksgiving Day game featuring the Los Angeles Chargers taking on the Dallas Cowboys." But CBS said the fault was Dish's and that it had "dropped" CBS stations in multiple major markets. 

Related: CBS Warns Blackout as Dish Deadline Nears

Dish claimed that CBS was "blocking consumers in an effort to raise carriage rates for local channels and gain negotiating leverage for unrelated cable channels, all with declining viewership on DISH."

“Blacking out millions of American families just ahead of Thanksgiving is a new low," said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy. "This is a naked attempt by CBS to shake down families for more of their hard-earned money, as they sit down to enjoy turkey and watch football."

The FCC has been reluctant to weigh in on retrans negotiations, but has offered to help mediate in high-profile cases, which this certainly is. The FCC had no comment, but a source on background said it is encouraging the parties to reach an agreement for the sake of consumers. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.