American Cable Association CEO Matthew Polka issued a statement on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s decision Sunday night to black out NBC affiliate WNWO, Channel 24, on Buckeye CableSystem in the Toledo, Ohio:
“The indifference of broadcasters, like Sinclair, toward blacking out cable customers, especially so close to the holiday season, in order to extract higher fees from cable operators and their customers, is nothing short of Grinch-like. In our view, broadcasters like Sinclair who would leave millions of consumers in the dark without notice are media malefactors who make a mockery of their legal obligation to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity. You’re a mean one, Mr. Broadcaster.
ACA is pleased that some Capitol Hill lawmakers find Sinclair and other broadcasters’ conduct intolerable. For example, last week Rep. Anna Eshoo and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, both California Democrats, introduced a bill that would provide the FCC with unmistakable authority to stop Sinclair’s signal blackout against Buckeye.
In another coup for consumers, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced a bill that would eliminate many of the special retransmission consent-related protections that Congress gave the broadcasters decades ago and that give them an advantage in negotiations with cable operators. In particular, both bills would no longer legally require cable operators to distribute payment-demanding TV stations to all customers as a precondition to their gaining access to other programming on the cable system. When consumers have more opportunities to opt out of high-priced programming, they are the winners.
Given Sinclair’s blackout of Buckeye, the Eshoo-Lofgren and Scalise-Gardner bills have arrived at the perfect moment and both deserve attention by Congress because consumers have lost all patience with broadcasters that engage in signal blackmail in order to reap huge fee increases from Buckeye and other small cable operators. When consumers learn these lawmakers are pushing for reform, they will root for their success.”
ACA represents about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies.
RBR-TVBR observation: While we agree there’s a need for a la carte programming packages, local broadcasters are fully within their rights to charge for retransmission of their signals. If the MVPDs choose not to carry a local broadcaster, they do so at their own risk. If the major broadcast networks were to go cable-only, they would certainly be charging retransmission fees as well. Look at the ACA logo: “Connecting Hometown America.” Wouldn’t “hometown” mean local broadcasters in most people’s minds?