Bill Would End Cable Blackouts

414blackout.promo250.jpgWhen cable operators and networks can’t agree on retransmission fees, cable viewers may suddenly see blackouts of broadcast and other channels. Such blackouts set a record in 2013, according to the American Television Alliance. Now legislation has been introduced in Congress that would prevent viewers from missing their favorite shows.

Says Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee: “My bill would put an end to broadcast television blackouts and ensure consumers aren’t held hostage by a dispute they have no control over. Recurring TV blackouts, coupled with the rising cost of television programming, has left consumers frustrated and looking to Congress and the FCC for answers.”

Eshoo’s legislation, co-sponsored by fellow California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, is called the Video CHOICE Act. That stands for Consumers Have Options In Choosing Entertainment. Eshoo has previously shepherded the CALM Act—which requires broadcasters to even out volume levels of programs and ads—through Congress.

The worst retransmission brawl so far was the 32-day blackout of Viacom-owned channels to Time Warner Cable viewers in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Three million viewers lost access to CBS and Showtime; TWC subsequently lost a record 306,000 subscribers. That’s probably why the legislation has the support of the cable and satellite operators. So far, the only network favoring it is Starz.

instybob's picture

I don't think the CALM Act is working.