Broadcasters: End the March Toward Retrans Reform Madness

Broadcasters that have coalesced in the effort to push back on retrans reform proposals are using March Madness to make their point.

In a new campaign, “Pay-TV’s Bracket Scheme: Stop the Pay-TV Madness,” that is more hardball than roundball, the group takes aim at MVPDs,  saying distributors "gouge" customers and "manufacture" blackouts by "saddling" them with early termination fees.

The ad was being touted the same day National Association of Broadcasters TV board chair Marci Burdick was making the same argument in a Hill hearing on satellite legislation, pointing out that an impediment to cord cutting during retrans impasses was the high cost--$400-plus she suggested--of some MVPD termination fees.

"It’s disingenuous on the part of pay-TV to blame the retransmission-consent fees paid to broadcasters as the sole reason for rising cable bills and to call for government intervention when nearly 99% of all retrans negotiations are successfully negotiated without service disruption to consumers," said spokesman Robert Kenny in a statement.

"TV broadcasters continue to parrot the same distortions that illustrate they’re living in a TV fantasy land and want to drag us all into it," said the American Television Alliance in response to broadcasters pushback on retrans reform at the STELA hearing. "We urge the Committee to take this opportunity to protect consumers from skyrocketing retransmission-consent fees and blackouts. members include NAB and the Big Four affiliate associations.

ATVA has its own campaign branding broadcasters flip-floppers. Its members include Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Dish, DirecTV, Verizon and Public Knowledge.

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.