Retransmission consent fees (“retrans fees”) are the payments that TV distributors (cable, satellite, and other TV providers) make to broadcasters to carry their TV channels. Retrans fees are a relic of a time before the Internet. Consider that:
- 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 a multiple TV options, but our video rules are still based on the old model of only one pay TV provider
Making a bad situation worse is “Reverse Retrans”: National broadcast networks are forcing local stations to charge higher retransmission consent fees and demanding a cut of the profits. Retrans fees were intended to support local broadcast journalism but station owners in faraway places are stripping resources from local communities to fatten their profits.
If their demands for higher fees are not met, broadcasters yank their signals from consumers, leaving you without your favorite programming indefinitely. Broadcasters blackout their channels until their ransom demands are met. And when they 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 because they want to 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.