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Viacom ≠ a Broadcaster

Viacom owns a slew of networks, no doubt about it. BET, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Spike—some of the biggest brands in cable. They are not, however, broadcast networks, as characterized by the American Television Alliance. The ATVA is made up of pay TV operatives, a few cable networks and lobbies that include the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge, among others. They should—and no doubt do—know better, but in the campaign to smear broadcasters over retransmission consent, there are no limits to the chicanery. A July 12 press release from the ATVA about Viacom’s DirecTV blackout starts out thus:

“This week blackouts have been a perfect example of broadcasters leaving viewers in the dark with no place to turn. At times of a retransmission consent dispute, broadcasters have been quick to tell viewers that they can change their program distributor to receive content that’s been pulled… The truth of the matter is, viewers are left with no place to turn when blackouts affect programming by multiple distributors.”

This is pure hogwash. The truth of the matter is, A) Viacom networks are not subject to retrans consent, and B) when broadcasters pull their signals from cable or satellite systems, the majority of viewers can still receive those signals over the air. ATVA convolutes the Viacom-DirecTV stalemate into a broadcaster issue by saying the company “once, too, benefitted from the retransmission consent regime.”

Seriously? CBS and Viacom split more than six years ago.

The ATVA says the availability of the Viacom networks or lack thereof “further emphasizes the point that switching services is not the solution, because every other distributor, large and small, faces the same problem.”

Wrong, again. Broadcasters are distributors.

I get that the battle over retrans consent is pitched, but the ATVA’s acrobatics are a new low.