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joining the American Television Alliance (ATVA) to give television viewers a voice with the hope of putting an end to outdated government rules that enable these practices.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We expect ATVA to highlight the consumer confusion, disruption and the ever increasing rates that result from outdated rules governing these negotiations.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.