ATVA Press Release: Independent Programmers to Congress and FCC: Fix Broken Retransmission Consent Rules

Sep 16, 2010

Washington, D.C. September 16, 2010– A diverse group of independent video programmers came to Washington today to ask Members of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revamp retransmission consent rules.  The non-broadcast affiliated programmers also sent letters to Members calling for action.  The programmers add their voices to those of numerous consumer groups, elected officials, and cable, satellite and telephone companies.

A letter signed by Outdoor Channel, Starz, Africa Channel, Retirement Living TV and GMC (Gospel Music Channel) calls on Congress to “strongly urge the FCC to undertake a review of its outdated rules.”  The letter notes that executives of a major broadcast network had suggested that higher retransmission consent payments “should come from lower payments to non-broadcast affiliated networks…a direct assault on independent programmers who play an indispensable role in meeting the public’s interest in being able to chose from a ‘diversity of voices. ’”

The letter also points out that “Unlike broadcasters, we have no special government granted privileges, such as mandatory carriage rights or basic tier placement guarantees.  Moreover, the bundling tactics of broadcasters allow them to capture a disproportionate share of the diminishing number of channels available for video programming, leaving fledgling and established independent programmers – and the audiences we seek to serve – at a distinct disadvantage.”

A separate letter from Si TV to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says the current retransmission framework “inhibits the entry and development of independent, diverse TV networks like ours” and the “destructive impact that this coercive environment has upon the marketplace” means that “consumers lack sufficient access to original, diverse programming content.”

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 viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy. ATVA filed a petition with the FCC requesting a rulemaking on retransmission rules.