Consumers, cable & DTH ops form body to fight channel blackouts

MUMBAI: Alarmed by US broadcasters‘ increasing use of showdown tactics and brinksmanship that cause disruption, uncertainty and even television blackouts, an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable operators, satellite providers, telcos, and independent programmers have formed the American Television Alliance (ATVA).

The mission of the new coalition, which officially launched today, is to ensure consumers are not harmed -- or their favourite shows held hostage -- in negotiations for carriage of broadcast programming.
The 31-member ATVA coalition will focus on preventing consumer confusion, disruption and ever increasing rates that result from outdated rules governing these carriage negotiations. Under the current law, broadcasters may cut off their television signals and shows from video service providers and consumers if they do not receive the compensation they demand.

In the nearly 20 years since retransmission consent was created, the television market has evolved dramatically. While consumers have more choices for video programming than they did in 1992, broadcasters benefit from several outdated rules that give them the incentive and ability to withhold programming -- using consumers as pawns in retransmission consent negotiations.

Public Knowledge president and co-founder Gigi B. Sohn says, "Public Knowledge has consistently said that consumers should not be harmed by disputes between broadcasters and video providers. Among other ideas we have suggested, we believe lawmakers and/or the FCC should consider requiring interim carriage of over-the-air stations should a retransmission consent agreement expire while the parties are still negotiating."

The coalition includes AT&T, The American Cable Association, Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish Network, The New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and other groups. The breadth and diversity of this new coalition demonstrate the urgent need for change. As evidenced by recent showdown negotiation tactics on the part of broadcasters, consumers are caught in the middle and face uncertainty, service disruptions, and constantly increasing fees.
American Cable Association president and CEO Matthew M. Polka says, "We‘ve come together because we all recognise that consumers aren‘t getting a fair shake from broadcasters, and face an unfair choice: Pay more for their favorite programs, or have them taken away. Working together with this diverse coalition, we‘re going to fight hard to make sure viewers have a voice and Congress or the FCC addresses this important problem."

Dish Network executive VP of sales, marketing and programming Thomas Cullen says, "Today, viewers have a wide range of options for how they watch television -- but there‘s still only one place to get network television programming -- and the broadcasters are taking unfair advantage of this situation to the detriment of millions of consumers".

As part of the official launch, The American Television Alliance will also be creating a new website,, which 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 favourite programmes.

The group‘s creation is also highlighted in a new ad campaign which highlights a core message of the group that the time has come to give viewers a voice.

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