ATVA Cites Rise In Retrans Blackouts

NAB Counters that Broadcasters are Seeking Fair Compensation
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The American Television Alliance, comprising some major cable, telco and satellite players, said Wednesday that there 91 instances of broadcasters cutting off programming in retrans disputes in 2012, a 78% increase over 2011.

That came in a New Year's call for Congress to step in.

"The facts speak for themselves," said ATVA in a statement, "and policymakers should listen. Broadcaster blackouts at the expense of consumers are here to stay unless policymakers take action. Retransmission consent rules, more than two decades old, line broadcasters’ pockets rather than protect the interests of the American public. The FCC and the 113th Congress need to make it their New Year’s resolution to protect consumers and change the ’92 Cable Act."

“Pay TV providers built their businesses on the backs of broadcast programming," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton. "It’s not unreasonable for local TV stations to ask to be fairly compensated for providing the most-watched programming on television.”

This New Year's retrans negotiations have gone relatively smoothly thus far, with a number of deals and extensions that prevent the threats of college and pro football game blackouts that can get Congress and the FCC shaking a big stick. However, some deals have yet to be struck or finalized.

ATVA has also called on the FCC to reform its retrans rules. The FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski went so far as to open a docket on potential changes and make some suggestions, but the chairman has shown little inclination to insert the commission into retrans impasses beyond keeping abreast of negotiations and urging the parties not to  unnecessarily disenfranchise consumers.