Stop Broadcasters From Weaponizing Blackouts and Increasing Consumers’ Bills

Oct 17, 2019
Broadcasters are padding their purses at the expense of the millions of Americans who subscribe to cable or satellite. How are they doing this? They are using programming blackouts to extort higher fees – fees that consumers end up paying.

Current law provides for broadcasters to be compensated by pay TV providers for the carriage of their signal. Broadcaster blackouts occur when the agreements covering these retransmission consent fees expire, and broadcasters unilaterally remove their channels from TV lineups – essentially holding their channels for ransom in order to extort higher fees from pay TV providers and their customers. The rising cost of programming is the single greatest factor in higher cable and satellite bills.

Broadcasters have caused a record 276 blackouts of cable and satellite providers so far in 2019, which exceeds the previous record of 213 blackouts in 2017. And the retrans fees paid by cable and satellite customers for broadcast channels have increased as well skyrocketing from $200 million in 2006 to 11.7 billion in 2019 – an increase of more than 5,000%!

According to a recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies and David Binder Research found that after hearing this information, 71% of consumers surveyed in the same poll agree that broadcasters should not be able to abuse outdated rules to boost their bottom lines. Additionally, 68% of consumers find the concerns of rising costs and bad faith use of broadcast blackouts convincing as reasons.

While broadcasters are increasingly targeting must see TV and weaponizing blackouts, the consumers who are feeling the pain of these broadcaster blackouts and higher bills, overwhelmingly support reforming the broken retransmission consent system. In fact, according to a recent poll of consumers, a clear majority say broadcasters should not be permitted to pull their signal while negotiating retransmission fees.

With the upcoming expiration of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), Congress has an opportunity to institute reforms and enact more consumer-friendly broadcast distribution laws.  It’s time to start protecting consumers, not broadcasters.

Consumers deserve better. Click here to learn more and take action to stop broadcasters from weaponizing blackouts.