Stations, Nets Unite To Battle Retrans Foes

The new TVFreedom.org coalition says the pay-TV industry must be held accountable for continually increasing consumers' monthly bills, saddling them with “extra fees” and artificially disrupting service through programming blackouts.

TVfreedom.org, a new coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network television affiliate associations, multicast networks, manufacturers and other independent broadcaster-related organizations has been created in response to efforts by cable and satellite operators that want to restrict broadcasters’ retransmission consent efforts.

“TVfreedom.org will tell the truth about the state of the video marketplace and call out the pay-TV industry’s inside-the-beltway gamesmanship designed solely to increase their record profits,” said Robert C. Kenny, director of public affairs for TVfreedom.org. “On behalf of consumers, we will publicly engage policymakers, lawmakers and advocacy groups to protect TV viewers from manufactured blackouts by pay-TV providers and extra fees on their monthly bills.”

TVfreedom.org says it “supports market-driven solutions and policies that create more choices and increased accessibility for consumers’ favorite TV programming.” It also is calling for modernizing the nation’s communications laws to reflect the convergence of video services in the marketplace, “while enabling innovation to continue to flourish.”

As part of its agenda, TVfreedom.org says it supports policies that provide consumers with refunds on their monthly pay-TV bills for programming blackouts; eliminate or reduce unnecessary and questionable fees that pay-TV providers tack onto monthly consumer bills (i.e., early termination fees and one-time charges for changes in service); and protect content providers from the use of their lawful content by others without fair compensation.

TVfreedom.org says that the retransmission consent process allows local TV stations to “continue providing their communities with vital information, including local news, as well as emergency alerts, severe weather updates, public health advisories and details on time-sensitive public safety-related incidents.”

The Coalition supports greater transparency on customers’ monthly pay-TV bills, calling for disclosure of programming costs for all content, not simply the selective disclosure of only local and network broadcast-TV programming.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

“It is disingenuous on the part of some cable and satellite TV providers to single out the costs associated with retransmission consent fees paid to broadcasters when less popular cable programming represents a much higher percentage of the total bill charged to consumers each month,” Kenny said.

TVfreedom.org believes that consumers would ultimately benefit from a system where cable and satellite TV providers fairly compensate all channels based on the ratings, popularity and quality of the programming that each channel provides to viewers.

During the 2012-13 television season, 96 of the top 100 broadcast-TV programs dominated the primetime program rankings. For years, TVfreedom.org said, cable and satellite TV customers have been overpaying for lower-rated cable channels that they don’t want or watch. These cable channels are, in many cases, paid much more than broadcast channels, despite winning just a fraction of the viewership ratings.

According to publicly available data, the very same pay-TV companies that are responsible for initiating nearly 90% of the retransmission disputes in America (DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Dish Network) collectively amassed nearly $68 billion in total revenues from October 2012 through September 2013.

Kenny said: “Certain pay-TV providers are publicly presenting a false picture of the marketplace and calling for government intervention despite the fact that 99% of all retransmission disputes are resolved nationwide without blackouts or service disruption to consumers. We urge pay-TV providers to negotiate in good faith with broadcasters on retransmission consent in all cases.”

TVfreedom.org comprises the following coalition members:

  1. ABC Television Affiliate Association
  2. Antennas Direct
  3. Blackhawk Broadcasting
  4. Bounce TV
  5. Bristlecone Broadcasting
  6. California Oregon Broadcasting Inc. (COBi)
  7. Capitol Broadcasting Co.
  8. CBS Television Affiliate Association
  9. Citadel Communications, LLC
  10. Dispatch Broadcast Group
  11. FOX Television Affiliate Association
  12. Journal Broadcast Group
  13. Mobile 500 Alliance
  14. Morgan Murphy Media
  15. National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA)
  16. National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB)
  17. National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
  18. National Black Religious Broadcasters (NBRB)
  19. NBC Television Affiliate Association
  20. Northwest Broadcasting Inc.
  21. Quincy Inc.
  22. Rural Agricultural Council of America (RACA)
  23. Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB)

Comments (8)

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Roger Lyons says:

February 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Maybe these broadcasters should be upfront and tell us why they want more in retransmission fees yet don’t use that money to improve their product.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    February 3, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Last I checked, costs were always escalating. So perhaps you would like a lower level of product than what you get now?

Don Thompson says:

February 4, 2014 at 7:58 am

Affordable Broadcast Television Act of 2014
Sec. 1: Every full-power TV station has the obligation and duty to negotiate carriage with any requesting multichannel video programming distributor.

    Gene Johnson says:

    February 4, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Would you also make that apply to MVPD’s having to negotiate with every program supplier? If all full power stations have to negotiate carriage (presumably negotiate does not mean reach an agreement, or does it?), does every MVPD have a duty to negotiate to carry all of a full power station’s signal, or just those signals (e.g., the primary channel) that it wants to carry and not other multicast channels? If you are going to impose such a requirement on full power stations, what reciprocal requirements would you impose on MVPD’s?

Maria Black says:

February 4, 2014 at 8:26 am

Good to see the major 4 networks, but there are some fairly large names missing from this list. Hmmm….

Robert Vincent says:

February 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

If alacarte is the answer, I’m in. I don’t take any paid service right now because of all the ridiculous chaff on all those wasted channels. Just take my mom. I visited her on Saturday and she went through the entire Dish Network lineup and could not find a single program she wanted to watch. Even her favorite Lifetime, AMC, TBS did not have on programs that interested her. She’s just one case. I’m holding out for the ability to pick my favorite stations and providers, pay a fair price for their programming, and the cable company adds a small up charge for the trouble of running the system. That’s not likely to happen so I will stick with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and my Slingbox to watch local channels when I travel since you tell Aereo its illegal to do it through them, what I already do through Slingbox.

Rebecca Barry says:

February 4, 2014 at 5:41 pm

I’m not going to rehash my prior post on the “What happens to Broadcasting if Aereo Wins article other than again point to prior articles I listed such as “Pay-TV Prices Are at the Breaking Point – And They’re Only Going to Get ; To understand the future of TV, look in your pocket and Cable Is No Longer About TV the latter pointing to Cable service providers focusing on out their infrastructure to handle more internet provided TV services changing their internet pricing structure billing for data usage to make up for lost TV service resulting from cord cutters resulting from either escalating bills or by blackouts like the TWC CBS blackout spat at the start of the NFL season that sent viewers looking for alternative sources including OTA antennas. Yep CBS won, but lost some re-transmission fee income and put TWC out of business per se’ now being sought by Charter and Comcast for their infrastructure for internet delivered programing including Aero who will most likely win based on case law (VHS/BetaMax and TiVo ruling) since Aero is basically supplying a cloud DDR storage service.

One of the most profound statements that comes to mind was made roughly 60 years ago pertaining to air travel causing the demise of rail travel. That statement went something like this; ” the demise of the rail roads was not a result of the airplane rather it was the rail roads choice to stay in the rail road business and not the transportation business”.

So it is today, broadcasters need to decide if they wish to remain in the business of Broad casting or go to the dark side and be part of the cable/satellite program content delivery business. Piling on the backs of viewers along with cable/satellite program providers is adding more and more straw on the camels back until all the camels are crushed.

I take issue with the statement that “inside-the-beltway gamesmanship designed solely to increase their record profits”. If TWC was making all the money that statement leads one to believe then why would TWC be up for sale? Why? Because everyone wants an increasing large part of the viewer pie money and it’s driving service providers to look at ways to stop the bleeding like improving internet capabilities.

When one chooses to charge be it re-transmission or per subscriber it becomes one in the same. At least service provider can recoup some of their cost (head end equipment, long lines for satellite providers and so on) with cable networks with local insertion. With local stations 100% of the investment recoup and yes a profit has to come from passing that on to the consumer.

Government is no longer the broadcasters friend. No matter how much they contribute in PAC folks like Verizon and ATT have deeper pockets and they want the broadcasters spectrum to expand 3G/4G services. Government is in debt so spectrum auction is a quick fix leaving broadcasters with less spectrum perhaps driving them into channel sharing like the current beta test underway. So down the road broadcasters could see their secondary channels evaporate leaving just a channel or two shared by all the local stations.

While politicians need the PAC money they need the vote so at some point politicians are going to side with their constituents over higher and higher cable/satellite bills, blackouts especially during severe weather conditions and Al la Carte will become law of the land like in Canada and that will include paying for local TV that carries prime time programs I can subscribe to via Amazon.
The new TVFreedom.org coalition says the pay-TV industry must be held accountable for continually increasing consumers’ monthly bills, saddling them with “extra fees” and artificially disrupting service through programming blackouts. I say look into the mirror! When you obtained your license your swore to act in and service in the public best interest. You cannot have it both ways so start being a broadcaster and quit trying to be a Cable content providing service.

Michael Lam says:

February 4, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Good to see this important group growing. If the hard-right-leaning Supreme Court lets Aero’s loophole destroy tens of billions in broadcast station group valuation, threatening the core of localism, there needs to be a clear focus on protecting station groups service to viewers. The networks have Hulu, which’d be benefitted immeasurably. Station groups need to team up. Wishing everyone involved all the best of luck.


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