The Issue

Why It Matters

  • Congress enacted a law in 1992 to prohibit cable, satellite and pay -TV companies from retransmitting and selling the signals of television stations without their consent.
  • This “retransmission consent” process enables broadcast and local television stations to negotiate for fair compensation with pay-TV and cable providers, who then resell that broadcast signal as part of their cable or satellite subscription services.
  • These stations are the backbone of the channel lineups that viewers see on their TVs, offering popular shows, local news, community reporting, emergency services and sports for free to communities across the country.
  • This system ensures that all viewers have access to their local stations and that broadcasters can negotiate in the marketplace for the popular programming they create, produce and transmit over their networks.
  • Recently, large pay-TV companies have been claiming that the retransmission consent process is broken and fees for broadcast programming are unfairly driving up the cost of business. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • At the same time, cable, satellite and pay-TV providers are increasingly threatening blackouts or service interruptions when retransmission negotiations don’t go their way.
  • While broadcast retransmission consent fees represent only a fraction of a pay-TV provider’s operating costs (only two cents of every dollar), retransmission consent revenues are critical to TV stations’ ability to serve their communities, and to invest in news staff and technology.
  • Retransmission consent fees are not responsible for rising cable bills. Even after causing blackouts and enjoying record-high revenues, cable and satellite companies are still begging Congress to lower their costs in order to increase their bottom line — not to save consumers money.