Escaping The Black Hole Of Television Blackouts
Escaping The Black Hole Of Television Blackouts
Escaping The Black Hole Of Television Blackouts

    Get Involved Today

    CBS crossed a line
    from permissible hardball tactics to unfair consumer abuse when it blocked TWC
    broadband subscribers from accessing content on The FCC needs to
    enforce rules on consumer protection, and Congress needs to fix the broken
    system of retransmission consent.

    Time Warner Cable (TWC) subscribers find themselves
    suffering through no fault of their own in what has become an all too familiar
    scenario for cable and satellite TV subscribers. After months of negotiation,
    CBS and Time Warner Cable could not come to terms for carriage of CBS’
    broadcast programming or its Showtime premium cable network. As a result, Time
    Warner Cable video subscribers can
    no longer watch CBS or Showtime in several major markets

    But then CBS went further. To put more pressure on TWC, CBS
    blocked all subscribers to TWC broadband from accessing certain content on its website
    . This punishes not just the Time Warner Cable video
    subscribers in the markets impacted by the blackout, but also TWC broadband subscribers
    who live outside the blacked out markets, and those that rely
    on free over-the-air TV or use a pay TV provider other than TWC (e.g., DIRECTV)

    CBS’ blocking tactic clearly violates the ‘rules of
    engagement’ Congress intended when it created the “retransmission consent”
    system that allows CBS to pull its signal and demand payment from Time Warner
    Cable. The FCC needs to use the power Congress gave it to protect the public
    and the public interest by making it clear to CBS (and other broadcasters in
    the future) that punishing broadband subscribers to put pressure on a cable
    company over a carriage dispute is not

    Not Choosing Sides,
    Protecting The Public.

    CBS and Time Warner Cable have spent lots of time and effort
    trying to persuade the public that the other company caused this mess. 

    Bluntly, no one cares. They just want the abuse to stop.
    Television subscribers are sick of being held hostage in disputes and, through
    no fault of their own, not getting the programming for which they pay way, way
    waaaaay too much.

    For reason you can read about at length here,
    Congress in 1992 gave broadcasters the right to demand cable operators pay to
    retransmit this free broadcasting signal, thus spawning the current
    consumer-abuse machine known as “retransmission consent.” But Congress did not
    leave the public entirely at the mercy of whatever consumer abusing practices
    might evolve from this primordial ooze of regulatory protectionism. Congress
    empowered the FCC to set some limits on the steel cage death match between
    cable and broadcasters.

    Unfortunately, as I rather
    infamously wrote here in 2010
    , the FCC has traditionally preferred to fold
    its hands and sit on the sidelines rather than do its job as a referee making
    sure it’s a fair fight and that the viewing public doesn’t get hurt.

    But the FCC doesn’t need to actually resolve the dispute
    between CBS and TWC. It can – and should — tell CBS to
    stop blocking broadband subscribers from getting content on

    We need the FCC to step up, do its job and protect the millions of broadband
    subscribers who have nothing to do with this fight.
      The FCC may believe that Congress
    authorized a steel cage, no holds barred, death match between cable providers
    and broadcasters around access to local broadcast signals; it did not authorize
    CBS to drag in millions of broadband subscribers and punish them as a means of
    putting additional pressure on Time Warner Cable.

    Finally, we have a lot more at stake here than just the
    current fight between CBS and TWC. If the FCC continues to sit on the
    sidelines, then this will become an acceptable tactic for future retransmission
    consent fights. It used to be that only actual pay TV subscribers had to deal
    with this. Now all consumers will get to share the pain – unless the FCC steps
    up and does its job to keep this fight contained.

    CBS President and CEO Les Moonves declared
    last week
    : “we are at war with Time Warner Cable.” But that doesn’t make
    millions of Time Warner Cable broadband subscribers who have nothing to do with
    this fight acceptable ‘collateral damage.’  Congress set rules of engagement that protect consumers, and
    we expect the FCC to enforce them.