Cable Act Turns 25 and the Verdict Is In: A Disaster for Consumers

Oct 4, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, on October 5th, the 1992 Cable Act turns 25 years old.  The American Television Alliance, a voice for the TV viewer, commented on the occasion.

“For 25 years, cable, satellite and telco TV customers have paid more than $40 billion to the broadcast industry for something that was once free, broadcast TV.  The 1992 Cable Act established the doctrines of government mandated broadcast carriage, or must carry; and forced negotiations known as retransmission consent.  Pay TV consumer have been paying the price ever since,” said ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy.  “Today, broadcast TV fees are soaring, broadcasters blackouts are out of control and consumers are held hostage by a federal law written before the advent of HDTV, the Internet and smartphones.”

Broadcast retransmission fees are increasing at an astronomical rate, and will cost U.S. consumers $10.6 billion by 2020, and are expected to soar to $12.8 billion by 2023, an 18 percent increase from 2016 levels, according to industry research firm SNL Kagan.

The retrans cash grab is fueling a television blackout crisis.  2017 is on pace to have the most blackouts ever in a single year.  Consumers have endured 179 blackouts so far in 2017.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, including the Final Four contests and the national championship game are among the marquee events broadcasters held for ransom, using blackouts to increase “deal leverage.”  Broadcasters also blacked out the Super Bowl, NFL and College Football post season games, the Grammys, and network TV premiers earlier this year.

When President George Bush vetoed the bill in fall of 1992 he warned, “the simple truth is that under this legislation cable television rates will go up, not down.”  Congress overrode the veto, the bill became law and President Bush’s prescient warning has become a painful reality for pay TV customers.

“Congress must take a hard look at the woefully outdated rules of the retransmission consent regime, which are directly responsible for skyrocketing fees and the record pace of blackouts that pay TV consumers experience year after year.  Furthermore, these troubling trends should erase any doubts about the necessity for strong FCC oversight during the proposed NextGenTV transition.”


The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.

 For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.