ATVA Cites Rise in Retrans Blackouts

The American Television Alliance, comprising some major
cable, telco and satellite players, said Wednesday that there 91 instances of
broadcasters cutting off programming in retrans disputes in 2012, a 78%
increase over 2011.

That came in a New Year's call for Congress to step in.

"The facts speak for themselves," said ATVA in a
statement, "and policymakers should listen. Broadcaster blackouts at the
expense of consumers are here to stay unless policymakers take action.
Retransmission consent rules, more than two decades old, line broadcasters'
pockets rather than protect the interests of the American public. The FCC and
the 113th Congress need to make it their New Year's resolution to protect
consumers and change the '92 Cable Act."

"Pay TV providers built their businesses on the backs of
broadcast programming," said National Association of Broadcasters
spokesman Dennis Wharton. "It's not unreasonable for local TV stations to
ask to be fairly compensated for providing the most-watched programming on

This New Year's retrans negotiations have gone relatively
smoothly thus far, with a number of deals and extensions that prevent the
threats of college and pro football game blackouts that can get Congress and
the FCC shaking a big stick, though not all deals are done.

ATVA has also called on the FCC to reform its retrans rules.
The FCC under chairman Julius Genachowski went so far as to open a docket on
potential changes and make some suggestions, but the chairman has shown little
inclination to insert the commission into retrans impasses beyond keeping
abreast of negotiations and urging the parties not to  unnecessarily
disenfranchise 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.