Indie TV group calls for retrans reform

Indie programmers 'disadvantaged' by current FCC rules

NEW YORK -- Independent TV programmers are making a push in Washington Thursday to get the FCC to revamp current broadcast retransmission consent rules.

The programmers group, part of the American Television Alliance (ATVA), is looking for members of Congress to support their call for the FCC to launch a review, arguing that broadcasters rising retrans fees weaken the business outlook for indie programmers.

A letter signed by Starz, Outdoor Channel, Africa Channel, Retirement Living TV and GMC (Gospel Music Channel) calls on Congress to "strongly urge the FCC to undertake a review of its outdated rules."

Executives of a major broadcast network had suggested that higher retransmission consent payments "should come from lower payments to non-broadcast affiliated networks...a direct assault on independent programmers who play an indispensable role in meeting the public's interest in being able to choose from a diversity of voices," the letter said.

The letter added: "Unlike broadcasters, we have no special government granted privileges, such as mandatory carriage rights or basic tier placement guarantees. "Broadcasters end up capturing a disproportionate share of the diminishing number of channels available for video programming, leaving fledgling and established independent programmers -- and the audiences we seek to serve -- at a distinct disadvantage," it said.

ATVA members range from TV networks to cable operators and satellite TV providers DirecTV and Dish Network.

On its Website, the group says its mission is to "ensure the best viewing experience at an affordable price, without fear of television signals being cut off or public threats of blackouts intended to scare and confuse viewers."
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