Groups pushing for retransmission-consent reform are using the Fox/Dish carriage dispute as fodder for arguments that the system is consumer unfriendly and needs fixing.
Dish, which lost access to FX, National Geographic and 19 regional sports nets Oct. 1 after it failed to reach a carriage agreement with the programmer, passed along the following statements, adding that Fox is "threatening" customers" with losing access to local Fox TV stations as well (Fox's retrans deals with Dish are up Nov. 1).
"The recent disruptions in video programming involving Fox and Dish Network is another example of consumer vulnerability to outdated retransmission rules," said Paul Raak, vice president of the Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance, which represents small and mid-sized telecoms.
"ITTA has repeatedly urged the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to revisit the retransmission rules in order to ensure that consumers do not lose programming when negotiations between programmers and multichannel video programming distributors [MVPDs] stall or sour," he said.
Programmers have argued that the government does not belong in the middle of a marketplace negotiation, and that its signals/channels are its leverage in such negotiations.
"During the pennant races, Fox has struck out at viewers across America," said the American Television Alliance in a statement. "Fox's blackout of regional sports networks and other cable channels from Dish Network puts consumers in the middle of a business dispute, the same tactic broadcast networks are using in retransmission negotiations with pay-TV providers."
The alliance is a group of cable operators, telcos, satellite operators, including Dish, and many others pushing the FCC to step in and "fix" the retrans system, including by mandating outside arbitration for impasses and preventing signals from being pulled. They say blackout threats are "all too common." Broadcasters counter that actual blackouts are rare.
The FCC sought comments on a petition by a number of the alliance members that the FCC propose new retrans rules, but the commission has yet to take any more action on the petition.