July 13, 2010

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Time to Give TV Viewers a Voice

By Flickr User autowitch

With increasing frequency, every time an important broadcast television event is about to occur – from the college football Bowl Games to the Oscars – there are stories about the potential for blackouts and disrupted service.  You may wonder why this is happening, and you’re not alone.

Broadcasters are increasingly using “showdown negotiation” tactics and brinksmanship to cause disruption, uncertainty and television blackouts as they negotiate for carriage on cable, satellite and telco video systems.  And the frequency and scale of these disputes is starting to get more attention.

Today, we’re joining the American Television Alliance (ATVA) to give television viewers a voice with the hope of putting an end to outdated government rules that enable these practices.  An unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable operators, satellite providers, telcos and independent programmers, ATVA has come together to ensure television viewers are no longer treated as bargaining chips by broadcasters when they come to the table to renew their carriage deals.

We expect ATVA to highlight the consumer confusion, disruption and the ever increasing rates that result from outdated rules governing these negotiations.  These rules were put in place nearly 20 years ago – that’s a long time in TV land! Consumers have more choices for video programming than they did in 1992, but broadcasters retain their monopoly position and the rules continue to give them the incentive and ability to use consumers as pawns in program carriage negotiations.

The coalition includes video programming distributors such as AT&T, Cablevision, DIRECTV, Dish Network and Verizon, trade groups such as American Cable Association, public interest and consumer groups like New America Foundation and Public Knowledge, and independent programmers such as The Africa Channel, Si! TV and Discovery Channel. The breadth of this new coalition shows there is broad consensus a problem exists.  A full list of the coalition’s members can be found on the ATVA’s website.

As part of today’s official launch, ATVA’s website will become a place where consumers can visit to learn more about the issue, sign up for updates, and take steps to ensure that broadcasters don’t prevent them from being able to view their favorite programs.  Please visit the website, and check back here, to stay involved with developments on this important issue.


  1. Jim's reply

    It’s about time someone does something about this!

  2. Reno's reply

    Great to hear an update is coming. We have to contantly look for ways to improve our products and services

  3. Maurice's reply

    Big TV companies need to get back to the business of servicing the consumer and less on themselves. I understand revenues from advertising have gone down significantly, but there are better ways of doing business and still getting the revenue .

  4. Gary's reply

    I would like to see more of a pay per channel type system. Certain channels would of course be free (ie:the network channels). I believe the majority of the rest should be pay channels. This would give us two things us. One if the channel becomes too expensive, we can voice our opinion by simply not purchasing it. If the programming changes and becomes something not to our liking, again we can drop them. Let those who want Disney get Disney, and let the rest of us alone.

  5. Jr's reply

    i agree with the “pay per channel” system. im not too happy with these “packages” many time i find that 1 channel i want but im forced to pay a hefty price for a “premium package” to get it.

  6. Dale's reply

    I concur, “pay per channel” would solve a lot of problems. I JUST WANT THE SUNDAY TICKET!!!!

  7. Bill G's reply

    No one else to blame but the GH Bush and the Republicans (again) for catering to lobbyists by passing the stupid law so that the excessively wealthy cable networks get even wealthier. Is it just me, or are others finally starting to see how Republican greed trend continues to steal money from everyones wallets and destroy our country?

  8. H F Bradford's reply

    If the private capitalists can’t get along, I guess we have to turn to the feds to control and supervise TV. Isn’t that “socialism”, the dirtiest of all dirty words to business persons on the right? Hello, BBC.

  9. Penny Stimpert's reply

    Th eproblem with making more channels a selected extra service, that each consumer pays for if they want it is that a) Disney and other companies don’t charge the cable company a per customer fee. Which in essence would mean that everytime a few people drop the channel, the cable company would have to raise the cost to those that are left… this could in essence mean cable companies would have to re-evaluate fees every month and that’s not going to happen… b) this totally ignores the fact that much of “our” local probramming is now owned by companies like Disney, so they aren’t just threatening to blackout The Disney Channel, they are threatening to black out ABC and ESPN. The big issue here IMHO is ABC that’s one of the biggies! What most people consider local programming is usually ABC, NBC or CBS. The only thing those channels would broadcast if their parent companies contract wasn’t continued would be the news. (My Channel two is already this way, they only have to broadcast programs that aren’t available on other channels (local news). Disney is not negotiating for just The Disney Channel, it’s an all or nothing deal. While the cable company can choose to charge more for some channels, even if all you want is you local ABC channel, your going to lose it if the cable company doesn’t buy the entire package. So, does the cable company now divide the annual fee they must pay Disney by the number of channels the agreement includes and begin charging more for your local ABC network?

    Simply changing the way cable/Dish etc companies rank/charge for channels is not the answer. The answer is for the BIG Companies to either stop holding the viewers hostage or for the FCC to do some thing. If this is left up to the big companies like Disney, we aren’t going to be able to afford any channels and the only thing on TV will be the news, unless your wealthy. TV has become our entertainment since going to the movies has become too expensive for most families.

  10. J N's reply

    Bill G, Your wrong, It is the Democratic who believe that way. Republican are conservative!

  11. HCH's reply

    I am ready to give up TV. Reading is better for you anyway!

  12. Frank's reply

    It is time to be honest with the internet in the usa.

    Time to put in high speed to every home in the USA and get rid of this TortureNet we have now. With flat screen going in most people home and a box for under 200 that can connect you tv to the net and play video from all over in hd It time for entertainment to take a new meaning.
    Commercials have to be changed or removed. Make them have their own channel and make them entertaining. on the main channels just have little ads pointing to the commercial channel saying they have a special program running. Have it so we can click to save a link to that ad and view it later.

    With inexpensive video cameras and computers people are producing video entertainment from every corner of the world. The media person that figures this out will be the one that takes over the rest. It time to break from structured programing and move to a more open media format. Were people are allowed to view what they want when they have time to.

  13. Sue's reply

    If this is a website to “voice” our opinions about what we watch on cable…then why hasn’t anyone voiced their opinions since July…If we are forced to pay for what we watch on television, then we should have the right to watch what we want…not the cable companies or the broadcasts networks…I would not mind paying for what I want to watch vs what they want me to watch…why pay an outrageous amount of money for reruns of the same thing every day? I agree with most saying I would pay for the channels that I want to watch…at least I would be the one in control of my monies…

  14. Bren's reply

    Ok everyone has a good point in this discussion, and several have read and understood what others were saying but have given logical reasons why some ideas would not work…..and why some would.
    I like TV did not think I would ever pay to watch it but I am.
    Someone needs to regulate the broadcaster content…..we pay to watch their channel and they rerun the same things over and over…example how many times have you seen The Men in Black being aired over the past two years. It’s pitiful to charge consumers for that.
    But my biggest complaint is the broadcast advertisement during a program I have paid them to watch. Their channel logo is constantly on the screen and then they have the animated pop-ups advertising a future program………we have a channel guide I want to watch the program I paid to watch without distractions.
    Does this irritate anyone else?

  15. dread pirate roberts's reply

    So some viewers think that they know better, that the people who do this for a profession, what programs to schedule. Which movies are going to make all the viewers happy. see the Men In Black comment. That poster assumes everyone is unhappy about MIB playing, and it is “pitiful to charge consumers for that.” well, what if you have a customer who LOVES MIB and watches it over and over? He’s happy to see it and is now mad because you decided for him it was not worth the price. One poster thinks we should make a channel JUST for commercials, and leave all other networks commercial free. That will get a lot of viewers!! LOL One poster thinks the government should regulate CONTENT?!?! REALY? They decide what is going to happen to the bad guy in NCIS? One guy is mad because ad’s pop up on the bottom of the screen or the channel logo is on there. Going back….regulate the CONTENT?? WHO will make that decision? The guy above who is still blaming Bush for everything, liberal, or the conservative guy who defends free markets? Really? I would not want any of the above posters to be involved at all in anything concerning this industry. One guy wants pay per view for ALL channels? read the a-la-carte discussions on this. Same logic applies. People who scream I want what I want because I pay for it, are free to 1) Make your own TV production company, make shows with content YOU approve, and try to sell it to a network for broadcasting. 2) but an OTA antenna, access movie sites and network sites and watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it that way. 3) buy out the networks and then you can play what you people feel is “good ” programming. The problem with this, is that you will now have the dilemma you are complaining about. How to provide programming everyone wants to watch and you think you know best what everyone wants. But you find out you are not providing that and now people are on a blog complaining about your wholesome programming. See Hallmark declining ratings below 0.1 market share and is now in bankruptcy. One guy wants HS internet to everyone. Who pays for the pipe? Who pays for the maintenance? Do we go out ourselves and run lines and line extenders and power traps? Who will give us the trucks and when are we doing this? After our day job? People don’t forget the around the clock behind the scenes effort to provide the television you so quickly dismiss as poor or outdated or not high tech enough. Who will field the customer complaints?
    Keep government reg OUT!!!! The Free market works. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. That sends the message. Interesting discussion, but not realistic in any sense of the imagination. Like A-La-carte programming will never work, neither will mom and pop regulating the programming.

  16. Edward Hitchings's reply

    People have become accustomed to having an OPEN BAR. Cable should operate a CASH BAR. YOU pay for what YOU want and those programs that don’t get enough requests go away.Too many people get an open bar treatment for the programs they want. I am tired of funding their open bar. Even if some of the programs I watch go away that is fine only the strong should survive and the open bar concept should not be offered. Time to STOP being politically correct.

  17. Ken's reply

    This is obviously an attempt to censor the information Americans receive and make only the “pro Lib. government “networks survive.
    Ratings should be the measure of a program’s worth. Free markets like free societies are the only way to make sure the best survives.
    Just look at the ratings for network news and cable news. Fox News, for instance, is crushing network news, ABC, NBC or CBS and cable MSNBC, CNN, because they are providing what the majority of people want.

  18. Ann's reply

    Bill is so wrong. The dems have been in charge in Congress since 2006. It is they who are supposed to represent us and make the laws. According to our Constitution the President does not make the laws. It is they who are for bigger government. It is they who have our deficit into the trillions because of their spending. They have spent more in the past two years than all the other presidents combined. It is they who are taking the money you earn, (if you work) and tax you to give to those who do not work. We do not need more gov’t. control.

  19. Jeff Simmermon's reply

    Ken, giving the people what they think they want is not always good for a healthy society. McDonald’s has served billions of people, but nobody confuses it for good food.

  20. kominki's reply

    I’ve been browsing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be a lot more useful than ever before.

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