TVfreedom Calling For Cable-Fee Probe

WASHINGTON — The retransmission-consent battle between cable and broadcasters here is heating up.

TVfreedom, the group representing network-affiliate groups and the National Association of Broadcasters, among others, is trying to interest Congress in investigating the rise in cable-TV prices — increases that cable blames in part on escalating retransmission fees.

Broadcasters are concerned that retransmissionconsent reforms will make it into must-pass satellite legislation, particularly a cable push to get rid of the requirement that they put TV stations on the mustbuy basic-cable tier.

TVfreedom was formed just four months ago, but has been trying to make up for lost time against the American Television Alliance (ATVA), which for several years has been pushing the FCC and Congress to reform retransmission consent.

To counter ATVA’s drumbeat on escalating retransmission fees as a driver of more costly cable bills, TVfreedom is mounting a scorched-earth campaign branding pay TV companies as cheaters and gatekeepers “fattening their already fat wallets” at the consumers’ expense and “raking in more green than a lawn service” by greedily padding customers’ bills.

ATVA, whose members include cable and satellite operators, has argued stations are just looking for a free ride courtesy of retransmission consent. It wants Congress to use the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act as a vehicle for retransmission reform; stations are fighting that effort.

“It is the height of hypocrisy for broadcasters to complain about high pay TV bills when they are the ones most responsible for rising rates,” ATVA spokesman Brian Frederick said. “This whole effort by broadcasters to disguise their own role in jacking up the rates of programming is utterly shameless. It’s merely an attempt to preserve their government-subsidized retransmission-consent system and run out the clock on real reforms within STELA.”

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.