On Tuesday, the House passed the Television Viewer Protection Act and the Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act of 2019, which contain satellite TV-related provisions. The Senate is expected to pass the same provisions no later than tomorrow. The following may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External & Legislative Affairs:
In recent years, one of the biggest cost issues affecting the escalating TV bills of American consumers has been the massive increases they’ve been forced to pay in order to receive local broadcast television, television that is available over-the-air for free. Since 2006, retransmission fees charged by local broadcasters have skyrocketed from $200 million to $11.7 billion in 2019 – an increase of more than 5,000%, nearly all of which has been passed on to consumers in the form of higher bills. Rather than address this problem, Congress has instead bowed to further demands from broadcasters to eliminate a law called STELAR, removing hundreds of thousands of consumers’ access to broadcast channels they receive today. Make no mistake, when the screens of those consumers go dark, the sole reason will be that Congress did not act to protect them.
This most recent example of broadcaster exploitation and overreach underscores the urgent need for Congress to address the issue of retransmission fees and their negative impact on consumer wallets. If the broadcasters truly want to debate, and to justify such predation based on the principle of free market economics, we are prepared. But all issues should be on the table. That includes the grant of free spectrum from the public given to local broadcasters for one purpose and now used for another. It should also include the grant of monopoly rights for local broadcasters in specific geographic areas – hardly consistent with any concept of a free market.
But one thing is made crystal clear by this latest development – the current system of dramatic rate increases imposed by local broadcasters and passed through on consumer bills must be addressed and must be reformed.