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Bill to Eliminate TV Blackouts and Reform the Video Marketplace Introduced

December 12th, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), senior Member of the Judiciary Committee, introduced the Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) Act to eliminate broadcast television blackouts and give consumers greater flexibility to choose the channels they receive each month from their cable, satellite or other pay-TV provider.

“During the three months since I released draft legislation – the message from individuals, communications companies and consumer groups has been abundantly clear: our video laws are in need of reform,” said Rep. Eshoo. “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 broadcast television programming has left consumers frustrated and looking to Congress and the FCC for answers.

“To add insult to injury, consumers have begun seeing these programming increases in the form of below-the-line-fees on their monthly bills.” Rep. Eshoo continued, “I look forward to working with Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee to advance meaningful bipartisan reform that promotes healthy competition, consumer choice and continued innovation across the video marketplace.”

“Internet users and television customers should not be held hostage when business negotiation disputes arise between cable and content providers,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “It’s unfair to subject consumers to service blackouts or blocked online content. This bill offers the basic consumer protections and choices they should receive in television and online services.”

The Video CHOICE Act has five key provisions:

  1. Preventing Broadcast Television Blackouts
    Gives the FCC explicit statutory authority to grant interim carriage of a television broadcast station during a retransmission consent negotiation impasse.
     
  2. Ensuring Consumer Choice in Cable Programming
    Ensures that a consumer can purchase cable television service without subscribing to the broadcast stations electing retransmission consent.
     
  3. Wholesale Unbundling of Broadcast Stations in Retransmission Consent Negotiations
    Prohibits a television broadcast station engaged in a retransmission consent negotiation from making their owned or affiliated cable programming a condition for receiving broadcast programming.
     
  4. Examination into the Blocking of a Broadcast Station's Owned or Affiliated Online Content During Retransmission Consent Negotiations
    Instructs the FCC to examine whether the blocking of a television broadcast station's owned or affiliated online content during a retransmission consent negotiation constitutes a failure to negotiate in "good faith."
     
  5. FCC Study of Sports Programming Costs
    Calls for an FCC study of programming costs for regional and national sports networks in the top 20 regional sports markets.

Supporters of the Video CHOICE Act:

Alsea River Cable TV
American Cable Association (ACA)
American Television Alliance (ATVA)
Atlantic Broadband
BEVCOMM
Blue Ridge/Pencor
Bright House Networks
CenturyLink
Charter Communications
Clarity Telecom
Consolidated Communications
Consumer Action
DIRECTV
DISH Network
Free Press Action Fund
Great Plains Communications
Independent Telephone & Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA)
INSP
MCTV
Mediacom Communications
MetroCast Communications
National Consumers League
Ovation
Public Knowledge
Ritter Communications
Shentel
Sports Fans Coalition
Starz, LLC
Suddenlink Communications
TDS Telecommunications Corp.
The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA)
Time Warner Cable
USTelecom
Verizon
Wave Broadband
WOW! Internet-Cable-Phone
WTA

A copy of the bill can be found here.

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