Retransmission Consent 101
Source: American Television Alliance
In 1992, in an effort to protect consumers and promote localism, Congress created the must carry/retransmission consent regulatory structure to govern the carriage of local broadcast stations by cable television systems – which was subsequently expanded to apply to satellite (DBS) as well as other “multichannel video programming distributors” (MVPDs) such as telco-video providers. Under this regulatory structure, the local broadcast station – not the national broadcast networks – were given the right either to demand mandatory carriage (“must carry”) or to choose to negotiate for carriage under the regulatory structure governing retransmission consent. The purpose of retransmission consent was to ensure that consumers would continue to have access to local broadcast content, especially local news and information content.
Today, however, the “Big 4” national broadcast Networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX) increasingly are usurping their local affiliates’ control over retransmission consent decisions, dictating the terms under which such consent can be granted and demanding a cut of the stations’ retransmission consent fees. This has directly contributed to the growing number of cases in which stations threaten to pull their signals from consumers unless their demands for high fees are met. Both of these actions – threatening to disrupt consumers’ access to local stations and siphoning retransmission consent revenues away from local stats and local content – harm consumers.