Broadcasters launch PR offensive over retrans

Website spells out options consumers would have

The National Association of Broadcasters on Monday stepped up its offense in the battle to keep the current retransmission consent rules as pay-TV providers press Congress and the FCC to alter them.

On a new website, www.keepmytv.org, the NAB spells out what options consumers would have should their pay-TV provider refuse to carry a broadcast channel. The site also promotes the importance of broadcast TV in providing 98.5% of the highest-rated programs as well as local news and emergency information.

Since the 1992 Cable Act, pay-TV providers must negotiate with local TV stations in order to carry the station's signal. Though most negotiations between broadcasters and cable take place without incident, there have been a few high-profile negotiations that have gone down to the wire.

In those cases, it comes down to the same debate: Broadcasters want what they call fair compensation for the audience they bring to the cable system, while cable systems complain the increased cost will be passed on to the consumer.

The American Television Alliance, made up of 31 pay-TV members and formed in July, has taken out ads and lobbied for changes such as preventing stations from pulling signals during negotiations.

One ATA member, Time Warner Cable, is in high-profile negotiations for a new retransmission agreement with Disney. The contract between the two expires at the end of this month.

Comcast, which is not part of the ATA and is trying to obtain regulatory approval for its 51% acquisition of NBC Universal, recently cut a new 10-year retransmission deal with CBS, more than a year before the current deal was set to expire.
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