07.14.2010 02:00 PM
Pay TV Alliance Formed to Fight Retrans
SHOTIWASHINGTON: The fight over retransmission consent escalated today when a group of pay TV providers joined forces to prohibit broadcasters from pulling signals. The broadcast lobby quickly shot back with 10-year record of cable-rate increases.

AT&T, The American Cable Association, Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish Network, The New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and 22 other groups formed the American Television Alliance.

“The mission of the new coalition, which officially launched today, is to ensure consumers are not harmed--or their favorite shows held hostage--in negotiations for carriage of broadcast programming,” the ATVA said in announcing its existence. “Under the current law, broadcasters may cut off their television signals and shows from video service providers and consumers if they do not receive the compensation they demand.”

The ATVA said retransmission consent rules--allowing broadcasters to charge for the carriage of their signals on cable and satellite systems--are outdated. Broadcasters once provided signals to for free, but when pay TV operators began charging extra for high-definition tiers, broadcasters went after payments. The negotiations over those payments has always been contentious. Parties typically go into overtime, and broadcast signals sometimes get yanked from pay platforms.

“Public Knowledge has consistently said that consumers should not be harmed by disputes between broadcasters and video providers,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge. “Among other ideas we have suggested, we believe lawmakers and/or the FCC should consider requiring interim carriage of over-the-air stations should a retransmission consent agreement expire while the parties are still negotiating.”

Soon after the ATVA announced its formation, the National Association of Broadcasters responded by providing SNL Kagan data on cable rates. From 1999-2009, annual cable rate increases exceeded inflation, sometimes by two, three, and nearly four times.

“The notion that Time Warner and its big pay TV allies are part of a group designed ‘to protect consumers’ is about as credible as BP executives joining Greenpeace,” the NAB’s Dennis Wharton said. “Pay TV built its business on the backs of broadcast programming, and it is not unreasonable for local TV stations to expect fair compensation for the most-watched shows on television. The ultimate irony is that big pay TV was against government intervention before it was for it, as evidenced by their continued opposition to net neutrality rules.”

The ATVA, in turn, took its case to lawmakers via the people at
www.americantelevisionalliance.org, a Web site listing its members and its mission: “to give consumers a voice and ask lawmakers to protect consumers by reforming outdated rules that do not reflect today’s marketplace.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams

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Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Wed, 07-14-2010 07:39 PM Report Comment
Consumers should not have to pay extra to receive on cable what is available free over the air. The Broadcast industry fought hard for must carry.
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Thu, 07-15-2010 04:00 PM Report Comment
It is rather ironic on the "must carry" versus the "pay for our content". Where I live Rochester NY one station has to pay the local TWC for carriage. Their programming's pretty bad after the WB was formed and WBGT lost it. So I guess the discussion "is the broadcaster a valuable property"?. If most broadcasters who have valuable programming though insist on cable paying them I suspect "must carry" will turn into "might carry". Has anyone thought that this might open up the old days of cable companies carrying remote stations again. It's forbidden now, but if carriage and $$ keeps getting pushed, I could see that coming.
Posted by: Deborah McAdams
Thu, 07-15-2010 06:45 PM Report Comment
A quick look at the fat profit margins of the big cable companies versus the struggling broadcast model tells us that big cable is not the underdog here, and hardly in need of Gov't intervention to make them richer. Many broadcast stations around the country have made it clear they can only afford to provide local news and programming because of the revenue they get from retrans fees, and many of those stations have already had to slash their news and programming budgets to stay in business. Some have filed bankruptcy, others have gone dark entirely. Has Time Warner Cable been "forced" to hike their subion costs again and again just to stay afloat? Hardly. How does pushing local broadcast stations out of business or forcing consumers to buy expensive cable subions just to access free over-the-air tv or local news coverage equal "looking out for the consumer"? That's not a rhetorical question. I'm obviously missing something here and I'd like to know.

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