Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) has written to Cox Media Group saying it should restore its stations to DirecTV ASAP and suggesting the broadcaster is not negotiating in good faith as the FCC requires.
Huffman said CMG is the common denominator in two recent retransmission consent blackouts, but also suggested there is blame on both sides and consumers are the ones getting "screwed," which he called unacceptable.
Cox TV stations are currently off DirecTV in a number of markets, including Huffman's district, where NBC affiliate KIEM-TV and CBS affiliate KQIV are involved.
In the letter he pointed out that the same two stations were taken off Suddenlink in January.
“My constituents are tired of these finger pointing exercises where big media conglomerates blame each other while consumers get screwed by blackouts," he wrote to CMG President Daniel York. "I’m sure there’s some blame to go around, but CMG is the common denominator in the two recent blackouts. At a minimum, that suggests they’re not working proactively to protect consumers. At worst, it suggests they’re using consumers as hostages by letting blackouts happen to maximize their negotiating leverage," he said, adding: "Either way, it’s unacceptable."
CMG has pointed out that the channels are still available via various other platforms, but Huffman said that "the suggestion that customers switch to another cable, satellite, or streaming provider in order to regain access is poorly informed and entirely unreasonable."
Huffman said CMG should restore all 20 of the blacked-out TV stations nationwide "immediately," invoking FCC rules.
"As you know, the Communications Act requires that should broadcasting stations opt out of must carry status, the broadcaster along with cable and satellite operators must negotiate retransmission in 'good faith,'" he wrote. "Allowing consumers to experience blackouts to enhance your negotiating leverage is not 'good faith.'"
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.
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