Pai Considering Dropping 30-Day Blackout Notification Rule

WASHINGTON—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to stop any premature panic among cable subscribers that they may be losing channels as a result of retransmission disputes, and to do so has proposed eliminating the required 30-day notification period cable operators must give in favor of doing so “as soon as possible.”

This new measure would be up for discussion and vote during the final FCC meeting of 2019 on Dec. 12.

With the current 30-day notice requirement, cable operators are often forced to let their subscribers know that they could be losing access to a channel or group of channels, only to then strike a deal at the last minute to keep the channels on air for those subscribers. Pai believes that by removing the 30-day requirement consumers can be more “accurately informed and not confused” about what is happening to their service.

“[W]e don’t want consumers to be inundated by premature and inaccurate notices about channel changes that never come to pass,” Pai wrote in a blog post. “And our rule begs the question whether the failure to reach an agreement in the 30 days before a contract expires is within a cable operator’s control. After all, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango.”

There have been multiple instances this year of cable operators and TV stations warning subscribers of the potential loss of channel, only to strike a deal before their contract expires.

By removing the 30-day in advance notification and instead allowing such warnings to go out “as soon as possible” will provide more accurate and clearer messages, according to Pai.