Skip to main content Retrans Proposal Misses Mark

Broadcasters represented by aren't liking what they see in the retrans revamp floated by the leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee Friday.

Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) wanted to leave broadcasters and cable operators something to think about before the committee comes up with its version of the bill renewing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). That came in the form of a proposal to allow MPVD subs to decide whether they want to pay the per-sub price for retrans stations. The proposal would essentially end retrans negotiations between TV stations and cable ops, allowing viewers to decide which stations they wanted to have and pay for—must carry stations would still have to be carried.

“This last minute proposal by Senators Rockefeller and Thune fails to address cable and satellite TV’s deceptive billing practices, excessive equipment rental fees and surprise charges fueled by market failures that result in increasing monthly pay-TV bills for consumers," said spokesman Rob Kenny. "Instead, it curiously targets America’s most-watched programming — broadcast TV — as the culprit for rising cable bills even though these channels collectively amount to a pittance on the price of a monthly pay-TV bill. This approach fails to offer consumers real programming choices or serious economic relief, yet forces them to continue overpaying for rarely watched cable channels such as Spike TV and TruTV.  Poll after poll shows Americans are fed up with pay-TV business practices. Unfortunately, this proposal offers little solace for beleaguered viewers.”

The American Television Alliance, which is TVFreedom's opposite number in the pitched battle over retrans revamps/reforms, has said the proposal looks like a consumer-friendly resolution.

The version of STELA that passed out of the House has a couple of retrans revamps—disallowing coordinated negotiations among noncommonly owned stations in a market and removing the ban on MPVDs dropping TV station programming during sweeps periods—but it did not contain a provision pushed by ATVA and other cable ops, to get rid of the must-buy requirement for retrans stations.

The Senate Commerce proposal floated last week would put that back on the table.