The FCC has opened a proceeding to address the impact of program blackouts on consumers that stem from failed retransmission consent negotiations. In opening a proceeding, the FCC stated:
“In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we seek comment on whether to require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to give their subscribers rebates when those subscribers are deprived of video programming they expect to receive during programming blackouts that result from failed retransmission consent negotiations or failed non-broadcast carriage negotiations. When such blackouts occur, subscribers often pay the same monthly subscription fee for a service package that does not include all of the channels for which they signed up to receive. In other words, consumers are paying for a service that they are no longer receiving in full. This proceeding seeks comment on whether and how we should address this customer service shortcoming. We also seek comment on how the market addresses this issue currently.”
This proposal follows an FCC proposal issued in December soliciting comment on a rule that would require the Commission to be notified in the case of a blackout from failed retransmission consent negotiations.
While we understand that consumers would like to see rebates on their cable bills, the FCC’s intrusion into the process can become very complex. For example, what happens if an agreement is never reached? Moreover, we have previously taken the position that the government should remain neutral in retransmission carriage disputes. It is not clear how such a proposal will impact these negotiations. We will watch this proceeding closely.
You can see the FCC’s Rebate Proposal here.
You can see December’s Notification Proposal here.