Press Release

Public Knowledge Asks Consumer Protections In Cable-Broadcaster Battles

March 3, 2010 ,

Background: There is yet another dispute between broadcasters and cable, this one involving WABC-TV in New York City and Cablevision, which provides service to Long Island, Westchester County, Brooklyn and the Bronx. If unresolved, cable subscribers would lose access to broadcast programming starting Sunday.

The following statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:

“It's a shame consumers are once again caught in the middle of a dispute between cable companies and TV broadcasters over the terms of popular programming being carried on cable systems. The previous dispute came right before the Super Bowl. Now millions of viewers might miss the Oscars. It's an unfortunate situation in which the system is obviously broken. This sad state of affairs has to change or consumers will, time after time, lose again either through loss of programming or higher cable rates.

“These battles validate what I told the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet in February last year. Congress and/or the FCC should examine the current retransmission consent process and consider whether the system needs adjustments to ensure that viewers are not disenfranchised.

“We call yet again on policymakers to consider requiring interim carriage of over-the-air stations should a retransmission consent agreement expire while the parties are still negotiating. In addition, policymakers should examine other proposed reforms, including: 1) mandatory unbundling of programming; 2) elimination of the prohibition against cable and satellite operators importing “distant” broadcast signals; 3) transparency for all retransmission consent contracts; and 4) a requirement that retransmission consent licenses be on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

“These changes would go a long way to helping to keep cable rates down and consumers out of the line of fire when big companies have business disagreements.”