Consumers organization calls for measured retrans approach


ConsumersThe National Consumers League does not like TV blackouts associated with testy retransmission consent negotiations. But it does like and rely on a strong local television service. It is asking the Senate Commerce Committee to seek an answer that addresses both issues.

The NCL expressed its sadness that “Local Choice” was dropped from the draft of STAVRA. But it also said it viewed “Local Choice” as a starting point, saying, “We also support additional choice and bill transparency for cable television subscribers.” In other words, legislation that unilaterally subjects broadcasters to new regulation is incomplete.

NCL clearly gets the importance of local broadcasting. It stated, “…we urge the Committee to seek solutions that achieve these goals while also preserving the viability of local broadcasters. Today – the 13th anniversary of September 11, 2001 — we are reminded of the critical role that local television broadcasters play in informing the public during times of crisis. Absent local broadcasters, consumers could be left without a crucial source of information when disasters strike. Enabling universal access to local broadcast stations is, we believe, an essential American value.”

They suggested addressing the issue if and when the Committee considers an update of the Communication Act. “We urge you and your colleagues on the Commerce Committee to seek a solution that both preserves the important role that local broadcasting plays in communities across America while increasing cable bill transparency and ending blackouts.”

The NCL’s thoughts were stated in a letter addressed to Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and also sent to Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD).

RBR-TVBR observation: The NCL’s desires would likely be satisfied without legislation if the intransigent tactics of just three MVPDs were reined in. Absent negotiation impasses involving TWC, DISH and DirecTV, this entire issue would be almost non-existent.

Blackouts would be rare, and local television service would be protected.

We urge Congress and the FCC to cease dreaming up one-sided, unfair, and ill-considered prescriptions that place all of the onus for retransmission consent problems on broadcasters and focus instead on the most common factor in the vast majority of impasses – and that is the involvement of these three specific MVPDs.

Fix that part of it, and it’s pretty much fixed in total.