The blackout of three Midwestern NBC affiliates on a mid-sized cable operator has sparked a nationwide war of words among trade groups representing the cable and TV broadcast industries. The situation highlights the increasing tension between cable operators and TV broadcasting companies as they face growing challenges from Netflix and other over-the-top providers.
Granite Communications blacked out three of its stations on Midwest-situated cable operator Mediacom--KJBR-TV in Duluth, Minn., WISE-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind. and WEEK-TV in Peoria, Ill.--during the weekend. The situation sent various lobbying organizations into full propaganda mode.
"Every time another #Retrans #Blackout occurs its more evidence that #RetrransReformIsNeeded and that bdcster's #AlwaysOn & FreeTV is a joke," tweeted Matthew Polka, president and CEO of the American Cable Association Monday.
Added American Television Alliance spokesman Trent Duffy: "This blackout is just the latest in a growing national scourge as broadcasters use old laws to gouge consumers for what is supposed to be 'free' over the air programming. It's time for Congress to end these broadcaster special interest giveaways so TV fans get their shows instead of a black screen."
In response, the National Association of Broadcasters-backed lobbying group TVfreedom.org tried to deflect public attention to pay-TV's rapid price increases and cratering consumer satisfaction reports.
"Pay-TV prices have risen by more than twice the rate of inflation for nearly two decades not because of the popularity of broadcast television, but because of pay-TV price gouging, excessive equipment rental fees and deceptive business practices," said TVfreedom.org spokesman Robert Kenny. "As Consumer Reports just noted, the pay-TV industry as a whole has one of the worst customer service records of any business sector in America. When you look at the facts, the excuse that most-watched local broadcast channels are to blame for rising monthly pay-TV bills just doesn't hold water."
Granite pulled the NBC affiliates off Mediacom's program guide over the weekend, after terms for a new broadcast retransmission licensing deal with Mediacom collapsed.
Mediacom serves 891,000 pay-TV subscribers across the Midwest and Southeast. The New York-based MSO is currently a hot topic in M&A speculation.
- read this American TV Alliance press release
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