Since when has the FCC ever fallen for misleading and exaggerated claims by industry players?
By Robert C. Kenny | February 16, 2016
Over the past year, broadcasters like Gray Television, TEGNA, Quincy Media and E.W. Scripps have reached hundreds of retransmission consent deals with pay-TV companies without any programming disruptions for subscribers.
The fact is that thousands of deals have been reached over the past five years without programming disruptions. New data shows that U.S. households subscribing to pay television are more likely to experience local TV interruptions from electrical outages than retransmission consent disputes. At bottom, over the past five years, only 0.01 percent of interruptions to pay-TV subscriber television viewing hours have been due to local TV station impasses.
Despite this, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing dramatic changes to the agency’s “totality of circumstances test” for retransmission consent negotiations that would ultimately create a regulatory imbalance favoring America’s least favorite companies – “Big Pay-TV” players like DISH, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable who receive failing grades in terms of customer satisfaction surveys.
Local TV stations are simply working to secure fair compensation for their most-watched news and programming from pay-TV companies who then sell it as part of programming packages to subscribers. That’s only fair — after all, it’s the marquee entertainment programming and local news provided by broadcasters that helps make pay television subscriptions so appealing to consumers. So why is the pay-TV lobbying so hard for regulatory changes that would hamstring local TV stations? It’s simply to pad their outrageous profits margins. Nothing more.
Make no mistake: pay-TV customers won’t see a dime in cost-savings if government intervenes in retransmission consent negotiations on behalf of the pay-TV industry. So much for protecting consumers’ interests.
At bottom, the pay-TV lobbying machine, led by the American Television Alliance (ATVA), plays fast and loose with the facts, and has created a fake retransmission consent crisis to pad profit margins for “Big Pay-TV.” Truth be told, the prevalence of successful retransmission consent deals demonstrates that the sky is not falling and there’s no retrans crisis in America. ATVA’s Chicken Little mentality amounts to nothing more than a scare tactic.
It’s clear that the FCC proceeding is being driven by the bad behavior of America’s satellite TV and cable giants. Since when has the FCC ever fallen for misleading and exaggerated claims by industry players?
It’s interesting that satellite TV and cable companies which have, for years, consistently lobbied for government to stay out of its way, is now urging the FCC to more heavily regulate one of its biggest competitors: local TV stations.
The regulatory changes being suggested by the big pay-TV industry won’t save customers any money on monthly cable bills. Given pay-TV subscribers’ distrust and utter disdain for the pay-TV industry, it would make more sense for regulators to address deceptive pay-TV billing and advertising practices that have plagued subscribers for the past 20 years.
The FCC has a real opportunity to help consumers. Fixing a retransmission consent system that clearly isn’t broken is not the answer.
Kenny is director of public affairs for TVfreedom.org, a coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network TV affiliate associations and others advocating for preserving the retransmission consent regime. He is a former press secretary at the FCC.