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Broadcasters Supply McCaskill Cable Bill Beef Ammo

Broadcasters are looking to help out with Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) inquiry into pay-TV billing practices and service quality.

In a letter to the senator, who chairs the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, (network affiliate associations and the National Association of Broadcasters, among others), shared what it said was independent analysis that showed "3,050 substantial service failures experienced by the five largest pay-TV service providers in the United States during the first five months of 2014."

McCaskill has launched a cable bill service "beef" site where Missourians can register their complaints, saying it was a prelude to possible legislation.

TVFreedom, which has been hammering cable ops over their bills as part of a campaign against retrans reforms, was glad to help out, saying it was in furtherance of that effort that it was submitting its independent findings.

"This data highlights concerns regarding pay-TV service and broadband network reliability across the nation," said TVFreedom spokesperson Robert Kenny. "In light of increasing profit margins for the nation’s largest multi-billion dollar pay-TV service providers, unreliable service or faulty infrastructure raises questions about the commitment each of these companies has to consumer service quality."

National Cable & Telecommunications Association spokesman Brian Dietz suggested the claims were bogus and disingenuous.

“Sadly, local broadcasters are back to their old tricks of ginning up spurious claims and pointing fingers at others instead of working constructively with Members of Congress on sensible reforms that would update a dated statute and yield actual consumer benefits," said Dietz. "The pay TV industry is more competitive than it has ever been and brings far more diversity and value to consumers than at any time in history. Instead of launching disingenuous attacks, local broadcasters should be forced defend the substance of outdated rules – like why local stations who freely embrace ‘market negotiations’ for carriage terms insist on retaining government guaranteed channel placement that unnecessarily limits package flexibility and consumer choice. We encourage broadcasters to stop slinging mud and instead focus their energies on fulfilling their public interest obligations and trying to innovate in something other than attacking others.”

Kenny countered: “The basic service tier enables low-income households, those families who otherwise couldn’t afford the hefty price tag of expanded basic or premium programming packages, to get their cable TV service and access to valuable local broadcast TV stations at affordable prices, totaling about $22 per month, on average.”

Congress is currently deciding whether to include retransmission consent changes in must-pass satellite license reauthorization legislation—there are currently versions of bills with and without retrans-related provisions.