Eshoo Introduces Retrans Bill

CHOICE Act Would End Blackouts, Bundling

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, officially introduced Thursday her retransmission- consent legislation, The Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) Act.

Eshoo circulated a draft of the bill in September, to the applause of The American Television Alliance -- whose membership includes the American Cable Association, Time Warner Cable, Dish and DirecTV -- which has been pushing for retrans reforms.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), would prevent retrans blackouts, remove the must-buy status of retrans stations on cable systems, unbundle owned or affected cable nets from TV stations in retrans deals, and more.

"During the three months since I released draft legislation – the message from individuals, communications companies and consumer groups has been abundantly clear: our video laws are in need of reform," Eshoo said. "My bill would put an end to broadcast television blackouts and ensure consumers aren't held hostage by a dispute they have no control over. Recurring TV blackouts coupled with the rising cost of broadcast television programming has left consumers frustrated and looking to Congress and the FCC for answers."

"Representative Eshoo's Video CHOICE bill puts forward a number of creative ideas that, if implemented, would move the video marketplace in a good direction," said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge. "[U]nder the provisions of this bill, not only would viewers be protected from the effects of corporate contract disputes that black out channels from their TV lineups, but they would get more choice in what channels they subscribe to, and could see their monthly fees go down."