A coalition of organizations spearheaded by the American Television Alliance, itself a coalition of organizations, has issued a blackout warning for numerous television markets where it says retransmission consent deals are set to expire – and it’s asking broadcasters to make sure the blackouts do not occur.
The group said, “Broadcasters are threatening to blackout millions of viewers across the nation beginning New Year’s Day as retransmission agreements between local network affiliate stations and pay-TV providers expire. Given Congressional concern and the FCC’s recent announcement that it will begin a rulemaking in early 2011 to protect consumers during retransmission consent negotiations, the undersigned call on the broadcasters to declare a moratorium this holiday season on viewer blackouts.”
The coalition did not say which broadcasters it saw as a problem, but it did provide a list of endangered markets. The highest profile negotiations at the moment are arguably between Sinclair and Time Warner Cable, and Sinclair’s footprint is contained within the list.
The markets include:
Burlington (VT)/Plattsburgh (NY)
Cape Girardeau (MO)
Fort Smith (AR)
Klamath Falls (OR)
Lexington (KY), Louisville (KY)
West Palm Beach/Fort Pierce (FL).
The groups signing on to the release include American Television Alliance; Consumer Action; LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens); National Black Caucus of State Legislators; National Consumers League; National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce; National Urban League; New America Foundation; Public Knowledge; and Rainbow PUSH Coalition
RBR-TVBR observation: Memo to ATA and friends – it takes two to tango. If MVPDs negotiate in good faith and sign a fair contract, then the blackouts will be avoided. If instead MVPDs pursue what seems to be the current strategy of dragging their feet in hopes that forces inside the Beltway will bail them out, and the blackouts will occur.
Anybody who knows how Washington works is aware that even if a government cavalry is going to come to the MVPDs rescue, it won’t be until after there have been congressional hearings, FCC open meetings, comment and reply periods, lawsuits and other forms of delay.
So the bottom line is this year’s set of retrans battles will be about who is best able to pin the blame on whom for failing to bargain in good faith.