Broadcasters Push Congress To Investigate Pay-TV Prices

TVFreedom (the Big Four broadcast nets, their affiliate groups and others) has written the leadership of the House and Senate communications oversight committees asking for an investigation into pay-TV billing practices.

In the letter to the House and Senate Commerce committees, TVFreedom public affairs director Rob Kenny, joined by the head of the Media Alliance and Hispanic Institute, say that as part of their ongoing review of communications regs, they should look at the billing practices of cable and satellite companies.

They argue that overbilling, rental fees and unnecessary charges are what is taking a toll on family budgets, and call on Congress to intervene.

"Given the Committee’s current focus on video marketplace successes and failures over the past decade, and the ongoing debate on how best to promote competition, consumer choice and technology-driven advances in the broadband ecosystem, we strongly recommend that the Committee consider fundamental industry-wide reform to facilitate lower monthly pay-TV bills for the American consumer," they said.

The American Television Alliance, which represents cable and satellite pay-TV operators, has been pushing for congressional action to reform the retransmission consent regime, pointing to broadcaster demands for more retrans fees as one of the reasons for higher cable bills, though cable ops point out that the price of cable has not increased significantly on a per-channel basis.

“The broadcasters sent this letter to eight consumer groups asking them to sign on and none of the eight agreed, presumably because they could all see it’s nothing more than a lame smokescreen," said ATVA spokesman Brian Frederick.

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.