Reforming Retransmission Consent

Suddenlink has joined several other companies and organizations — including Public Knowlege, a consumer advocacy group — to ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update the rules for what’s commonly known as “retransmission consent.”

Before cable operators and other TV service providers can “retransmit” local TV station signals to their customers, a 1992 laws requires them to first secure the permission or “consent” of each TV station’s owner. In recent years, TV station owners have demanded higher and higher compensation, and if they don’t get what they want, they’ve increasingly refused (or threatened to refuse) their consent, leaving TV service providers with a difficult choice: pay up and pass along the costs or lose the station and its exclusive programs.

One such situation recently affected cable customers in the NYC metro area, when Disney pulled the signal for WABC from Cablevision, from Sunday morning until 15 minutes into the Oscars’ ceremony telecast.

Similar situations have affected or nearly affected Suddenlink customers, including in 2006 in West Virginia (before this blog was launched); in 2007, outside of Austin, Texas; and in multiple communities in December 2008.

In light of these situations, we’ve joined with others to ask the FCC (a) to implement new dispute resolution mechanisms, such as compulsory arbitration or an expert tribunal; and (b) to require continued carriage of broadcast signals during negotiations or disputes, to help ensure uninterrupted programming for consumers.