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Jul 13

Viewers Left With No Place to Turn Amid Summer of Blackouts

Despite broadcasters’ insistence that there’s always another option

This week blackouts have been a perfect example of broadcasters leaving viewers in the dark with no place to turn. At times of a retransmission consent dispute, broadcasters have been quick to tell viewers that they can change their program distributor to receive content that’s been pulled.

The truth of the matter is, viewers are left with no place to turn when blackouts affect programming by multiple distributors. With Viacom pulling their signals from DirecTV subscribers at midnight Wednesday, three of the four largest distributors are now blacked out with at least one programmer.

Viacom’s swing at millions of viewers nationwide has knocked out popular cable channels, including Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central.  As a company that once too benefitted from the retransmission consent regime, Viacom’s display of consumer abuse is just another example of how everyday viewers are used as bargaining chips in “negotiation” games where consumers ultimately lose.

This further emphasizes the point that switching services is not the solution, because every distributor (large and small) faces the same problem.

Broadcasters don’t seem to be slowing down on blackouts anytime soon.  At the beginning of this week, viewers from coast to coast saw static on local broadcast channels after Hearst Television used these same anti-consumer tactics when pulling the plug in nearly a dozen markets.

This week has been a perfect example of how outdated regulations that no longer fit today’s industry have to be addressed.  For the sake of the viewers, we urge policymakers to reform retransmission consent rules that unnecessarily harm consumers.

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The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.
For more information about ATVA, visit our website. Follow us on Twitter @ATVAlliance.

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