The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Timothy Karr: 201-533-8838,,

Groups Urge FCC to Put Consumers First in Retransmission Battles


Public interest groups from across the political spectrum are urging
the Federal Communications Commission to take steps to protect
consumers in retransmission disputes between broadcasters and cable
companies. The groups seek to prevent a repeat of deadlocks that have
deprived paying customers of access to television programming, and to
reform retransmission processes to put consumer choice and the public
interest ahead of parochial industry interests.

In comments filed today, Parents Television Council, Free Press and
Consumers Union propose pro-consumer, pro-public interest solutions to
the ongoing problems with retransmission consent negotiations. The
FCC's request for comment on a recently filed petition comes in the
wake of several high-profile disputes, including one between
Cablevision and ABC/Disney in which millions of households could not
get ABC signals for 20 hours immediately before the Academy Awards.

"The Commission should protect consumers from being made the real victim in retransmission consent wars," said M. Chris Riley,
Free Press policy counsel. "Unless the FCC acts to fix this broken
system, we can expect a long hot summer when consumers will likely be
caught again between sparring broadcasters and cable companies, and
will face more service disruptions and ever higher cable bills. These
bills continue to go up, while many costs are going down. Consumers
deserve a break."

The public interest groups recommend that the Commission institute a
dispute resolution process that includes a consumer right to opt out of
paying for any unwanted channels included as part of a retransmission
consent bundle, and they further propose that the costs of dispute
resolution not fall on the taxpayer or the consumer.

Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council said,
"The Commission must act to shift the balance of power to the public.
Consumers should no longer be prisoners of pricey bundles, but should
have the freedom to select, pay for and receive in their living rooms
only those channels they want. The Commission's aim should not be to
pick winners and losers in industry disputes, but rather to protect
families and consumers."

"Cable customers should get what they pay for, instead of being held
at the mercy of these disputes between the cable companies and the
broadcasters," said Joel Kelsey of Consumers Union.
Consumers should be able to choose their channels, and they should get
a refund when they lose access to the channels they pay for."

According to media reports, the FCC may already have decided not to
take any action in this proceeding, even though initial comments have
not yet been filed by the cable industry, broadcasters or the public.
The groups urge the Commission to recognize that a decision to stand on
the sidelines would be a mistake and would result in further consumer

Link to the filing:

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