Networks fire back on retransmission change attempt


Taking note of an effort by Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) to get colleagues to sign onto a letter urging the FCC to restack the retransmission consent system in favor of cable MSOs, the big five networks and the NAB have written to the two Congressmen to set them straight. (view the letter to the right in attachments marked Retrans-letter)

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision and the National Association of Broadcasters wrote to take issue with the assertions of the “dear colleague” letter being circulated by Israel and King. In particular, the broadcasters took issue with the claim that viewers “either lose access to broadcast programming or must bear the increased costs of such programming in the form of higher cable and satellite rates” because broadcasters are insisting on sharing in the cash that the MSOs collect from subscribers to view local TV channels.

“There is no evidence to support these assertions. Since the advent of retransmission consent negotiations, thousands of such agreements have been successfully concluded with no service disruption. During the tiny handful of cases in which service was disrupted, the length of the disruption is typically very small. Indeed, a recent analysis found that American households are about 10 times more likely to experience a complete cable system outage due to technical or weather-related reasons than to be deprived of a television channel because of a retransmission consent dispute,” the broadcasters told the two New York Representatives.

The letter insisted that the current retransmission system, enacted by Congress in 1992, is working as intended and should not be tampered with.

The entire letter is available as an attachment on this page.

RBR-TVBR observation: As Members of Congress, you would think that Israel and King would know that only an Act of Congress, not the FCC, can change the retransmission consent law. More importantly, their claims that the retrans system created by Congress in 1992 is not working properly are simply erroneous.