ABOUT THE ISSUE
OVER THE PAST DECADE, BROADCASTERS HAVE ABUSED OUTDATED RULES TO BOOST THEIR BOTTOM LINES – AND THEY CONTINUE TO THREATEN VIEWERS WITH BLACKOUTS.
WHAT IS RETRANSMISSION CONSENT?
Retransmission consent fees (“retrans fees”) are the payments that TV providers make to local broadcasters to carry their TV channels. Retrans fees are a relic of a time before the Internet.
Making a bad situation worse is “Reverse Retrans,” which is when national broadcast networks force local stations to charge higher retransmission consent fees so they can take a cut of the profits. So while retrans fees were intended to support local broadcast journalism, the national networks are now stripping resources from local communities to fatten their own profits.
What’s more, if the demands for higher fees are not met, the broadcasters routinely yank their signals from consumers, blacking out their channels until their ransom demands are met. And when they finally are, it results in much higher prices for you, the consumer.
Big broadcasters are paying an army of Washington lobbyists to keep the current retrans system in place so they can continue to charge higher and higher fees for their programming. Despite tremendous changes in how consumers watch TV, the rules governing the video marketplace have stayed the same.
Retrans fees were established by the 1992 Cable Act.
The rules were written at a time when most of us had only one choice for pay-TV service.
Today, we have multiple TV options, but our video rules are still based on the old model of only one pay-TV provider.
WHO IS “BIG BROADCAST”?
The “Big Four” networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) provide programming such as morning and nightly national news shows, some daytime dramas, prime time and late night shows. That programming is then shown by their owned and operated (“O&O”) stations or their affiliated stations.
Cable and satellite TV providers already pay more than a quarter billion dollars in royalty fees each year for the programming content carried by these broadcast stations, but retransmission consent fees are charged in addition to these payments, meaning consumers are essentially being charged twice to watch the same content.