Broadcast, Cable Spar Over Carriage Issues

MVPDs and broadcasters traded shots Tuesday (Jan. 9) over retransmission consent impasses in 2017.

In a press release, the American Television Alliance, whose members include satellite operators and the American Cable Association, said that broadcasters had "shattered" the record for retrans related blackouts, with more than twice as many (213) as in 2016.

“Broadcasters pulled the plug on American consumers a record 213 times last year, blacking out millions of pay TV subscribers across the country,” said ATVA spokesman Trent Duffy.  “Broadcaster blackouts roared back in 2017 after the FCC suspended its investigation of abusive broadcast industry tactics. Broadcasters have weaponized TV blackouts, deliberately targeting live sports and other must-see TV to inflict maximum pain on innocent consumers."

The FCC under former Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler concluded its inquiry into access to programming by concluding, among other things, that it was not going to act on requests to expand its definition of bad faith bargaining to include blackouts or to mandate third-party arbitration in the case of impasses.

ATVA added that while broadcasters were blacking out signals, they were collecting billions in retrans fees.

The National Association of Broadcasters EVP of communications Dennis Wharton shot back: “ATVA should look in the mirror to determine who’s really responsible for retrans disruptions. ATVA’s own members – the largest pay-TV companies in business – cynically force impasses in hopes that Washington will inject itself into free market negotiations. Despite pay TV posturing, 99 percent of all retrans deals are completed successfully, and we look forward to continue partnerships with pay TV operators for our valued, most-watched broadcast programming.”

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.