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.
Stations, Nets Unite To Battle Retrans Foes
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.
“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:
- ABC Television Affiliate Association
- Antennas Direct
- Blackhawk Broadcasting
- Bounce TV
- Bristlecone Broadcasting
- California Oregon Broadcasting Inc. (COBi)
- Capitol Broadcasting Co.
- CBS Television Affiliate Association
- Citadel Communications, LLC
- Dispatch Broadcast Group
- FOX Television Affiliate Association
- Journal Broadcast Group
- Mobile 500 Alliance
- Morgan Murphy Media
- National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA)
- National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB)
- National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
- National Black Religious Broadcasters (NBRB)
- NBC Television Affiliate Association
- Northwest Broadcasting Inc.
- Quincy Inc.
- Rural Agricultural Council of America (RACA)
- Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB)