Unpacking the broadcast TV repack

If you live in one of the 16 million U.S. households that receives television channels via free, over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting, chances are good that you have seen or will soon see a message pop up at the bottom of your TV screen.

These messages may say things like “the channel is moving frequencies,” “rescan your TV,” or “weak or no signal.” Don’t fret that you’ll lose access to your favorite channels, however. Those messages are just your local TV station letting you know that the station has, or will soon, change frequencies.

Why is this happening? Several years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), cell phone providers, and TV broadcasters agreed to reallocate parts of the nation’s spectrum that currently carry broadcast television to instead be used for wireless broadband services. This meant that broadcasters must move their stations to different parts of the spectrum to avoid interference with the wireless broadband signals.

For consumers, this means that over the next few years, you will need to re-scan the channels on your TV to continue receiving your broadcast channels. Depending on where you live, you may even have to re-scan on more than one occasion. Don’t worry—the channel numbers you’re used to won’t change. Any preparation that must go into tuning your TV to the new spectrum should be done automatically by your TV during the re-scan process.

Fortunately, the FCC and the broadcasters are going all out to make sure that consumers are not caught unaware by this process (known in industry jargon as the broadcast “repack”). The fastest way to get up to speed is to check out the FCC’s new video explaining the process and what buttons to press on your remote control to re-scan for new channels. The FCC also has a very useful website with FAQs and links to additional resources that can help answer TV owners’ questions. The National Association of Broadcasters also has a great resource with step-by-step instructions on how to re-scan at TVAnswers.org.

Unfortunately, we anticipate that scammers may try to latch on to the repack process. Back in 2008, fraudsters had a field day with the digital television (DTV) transition process, peddling worthless “coupons” and other scams to take advantage of consumer confusion over changes to their TV service. As the repack process gets underway fraudsters, we anticipate that scammers will be looking for ways to take advantage. For example, fraudsters have recently been advertising “miracle” TV antennas claiming they can do things they actually can’t, like getting cable TV broadcasts. As the TV repack gets more media coverage, it’s likely that more potentially misleading or fraudulent ads like these will start showing up in people’s email inboxes, in mailers, and on the radio or in newspapers. If you come across one of these scams, be sure to report it to NCL’s Fraud.org campaign via our secure online complaint form.

For the vast majority of OTA TV watchers, the transition is likely to happen without much friction. Nonetheless, getting familiar with the FCC’s resources keeping an eye out for the scams could help avoid an expensive headache. Until then, happy re-scanning!

Alabama’s abortion ban is an assault on reproductive freedom

Nissa Shaffi

On May 14, 25 white male legislators in Alabama decided the fate of reproductive health for millions of women in their state. This astonishingly homogeneous group supported the Human Rights Protection Act [SB 314] 25-6. Although women make up 51 percent of Alabama’s population, only 15 percent of women serve in Alabama’s state legislature. A mere three women were present for the vote.

The measure is draconian. It will prohibit abortion in all cases, even in instances of rape or incest, and will only permit the procedure in situations where the mother’s life is in danger or if the child presents a “lethal anomaly.” Physicians convicted of performing abortions could face Class A felony charges–carrying a punishment of up to 99 years. To put this into perspective, if a woman is raped and impregnated, her rapist would face less time in prison than would the provider who aborted the pregnancy.

In addition to Alabama’s extreme measure, five other states are considering so-called “Heartbeat Bills” prohibiting an abortion beyond six to eight weeks of pregnancy if a fetal cardiac activity is detected. Semantics matter because, at six weeks, a fetus technically only consists of “a group of cells with electrical activity.” This time frame is crucial because most women are not even aware that they are pregnant and therefore cannot make a timely decision.

We’ve been here before. Before Roe v Wade–the 1973 landmark case that declared the criminalization of abortion to be unconstitutional, thus securing a woman’s right to choose–200 women died annually because they could not access abortions legally.

Banning abortions will not prevent women from getting them. Indeed, shunning women and their healthcare providers only creates an environment where women must seek dangerous methods to end their pregnancies. An estimated 30,000 maternal deaths occur worldwide as a result of clandestine abortions in countries where the procedure is illegal. Restrictive abortion laws threaten reproductive freedom and endanger lives.

Statistically, abortion rates drop in countries where contraception is easily accessible and where the procedure is legal. For example, in countries like Israel and New Zealand, abortion is subsidized by the government. Additionally, creating social infrastructures that support motherhood–such as paid maternity leave and offering affordable childcare–reduce the incidence of abortion.

The National Consumers League strongly opposes punitive and cruel bills like the one in Alabama. Abortion is not a decision women enter into lightly. These are often excruciating decisions, which ultimately must be at the discretion of a woman and her doctor. These bills strip women of their agency to make safe and informed choices about their body, health, and lives. Alabama’s laws and their ilk are regressive and endanger the health of women, especially those of limited means. We call on all state legislators to recognize this fact and lift these terrible restrictions.

NCL letter to Congress: Raising the Passenger Facility Charge will hurt travelers and families

May 10, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

The Honorable Peter DeFazio
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
2165 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Maria Cantwell
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
511 Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20500

The Honorable Rick Larsen
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Aviation
U.S. House of Representatives
1529 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kyrsten Sinema
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Aviation and Space
825B Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Raising the Passenger Facility Charge Will Hurt Travelers and Families

Dear Senator Cantwell, Congressman DeFazio, Congressman Larsen, and Senator Sinema,

On behalf of the National Consumers League, America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, I am writing today to share our concerns about the proposal to increase the Passenger Facility Charge (“PFC”) that is under consideration by your committees. There is undoubtedly a need to invest in updating America’s airport infrastructure. However, massive infrastructure projects are already underway and even more are planned, all financed with existing funding sources. Therefore, we disagree that new funds should be generated by raising fees yet again on consumers.

As you know, the PFC is currently capped at $4.50. Some airport executives have proposed increasing the cap to $8.50 per segment and indexing the PFC to inflation.[1] While this may seem like a marginal increase on its face, this fee hike could add up to $64 more for a family of four to travel when layovers are factored in.[2] This would disproportionately burden budget-conscious consumers and families buying less expensive tickets, who already face an array of taxes and ancillary fees. Moreover, the increase will unfairly burden travelers who do not reside near hub airports and typically have to fly multiple segments to reach their destinations.

Since 2009, $165 billion in infrastructure projects have been funded at the current PFC cap level. In 2017, U.S. airports collected a record $30 billion of revenue—growing 47% on a per passenger basis since 2000, outpacing inflation. As anyone traveling through our nation’s airports can attest, there is no shortage of opportunities for airports to obtain revenue; rents paid by gift shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, rental car and parking facilities to name only a few.  Airports should utilize the funds they already have before asking Congress to burden American families and consumers with yet another tax.

Passengers are already paying enough to fly. I encourage you to consider those who will ultimately pay the price for the proposed PFC increase – families, especially rural families, who already pay their fair share in taxes and fees when traveling. Until a persuasive case can be made for additional fees to be passed on to the flying public, we urge you to reject an increase in the PFC cap.


John Breyault
Vice President, Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud
National Consumers League
Phone: (202) 207-2819
Email: johnb@nclnet.org

[1] Silk, Robert. “PFC redux: Airport and airline lobbyists resume the fight,” Travel Weekly. March 26, 2019. Online: https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Airline-News/PFC-redux

[2] Airlines for American. “A4A Urges Senators to Reject Massive Secret Tax Hike in Unreleased THUD Appropriations Bill,” Press release. July 25, 2017. Online: https://www.airlines.org/news/a4a-urges-senators-to-reject-massive-secret-tax-hike-in-unreleased-thud-appropriations-bill/w.marketwatch.com/press-release/a4a-urges-senators-to-reject-massive-secret-tax-hike-in-unreleased-thud-appropriations-bill-2017-07-25


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL urges withdrawal of expected Federal Reserve nominee Stephen Moore

May 2, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) is urging President Trump to withdraw his consideration of Stephen Moore as a nominee to the Federal Reserve Bank’s Board of Governors after the revelation that Moore supports unequal pay for men and women and favors the elimination of many child labor laws.

According to a report in Slate, Moore said during a 2016 debate about the minimum wage that the United States should eliminate many of its child labor laws to help individuals get early work experience. “I’m radical on this,” said Moore, “I’d get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12.”

“Since 1899, the National Consumers League has worked to protect children from the health and safety dangers of child labor and its horrific impact on children’s education,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Stephen Moore is out of touch on modern labor protections and would wipe out over 100 years of labor progress and endanger countless children.”

“The number of child occupational deaths have fallen dramatically over the last century as child work in factory, coal mines, and other dangerous jobs have been outlawed,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s Director of Child Labor Advocacy and the coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, which NCL founded 30 years ago and continues to co-chair. “We must not turn back the clock and reverse this progress by gutting our child labor laws.”

The Trump Administration has attempted to weaken current child labor laws by pursuing regulations that would allow teens working in nursing homes to operate patient lifts without adult supervision. “This would endanger both the patient and the teen worker,” said Maki. The administration also tried to reverse an Obama Administration ban on children applying pesticides at work. “It appears that this awful idea has been abandoned,” noted Maki.

In 2014, Moore expressed hope that men would continue to be their family’s “breadwinners” and characterized the gender pay gap between men and women as a distraction from falling wages. He also said that women should be banned from serving as college announcers and referees in college basketball games. “The Federal Reserve plays a critical role in directing the American economy. There’s no place on its Board of Governors for someone who shows no concern for the gender pay gap or someone who would deny women equal access to jobs,” added Greenberg.

CNN reports that Moore has attacked the Violence Against Women Act as the “most objectionable pork” in the 1994 crime bill. Multiple news reports have indicated that Moore had a contempt of court citing for failing to pay alimony and child support to an ex-wife and that he owes the IRS more than $75,000 in back taxes. “There are ample reasons for the president to withdraw Stephen Moore from consideration,” said Greenberg.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

• The National Consumers League v. Gerber Products Co., No. 2014 CA 008502 B (D.C. Superior Ct.)

May 1, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League (“NCL”) and Gerber Products Co. (“Gerber”) look forward to working together to further the important goals of supporting consumers of all ages, addressing hunger and food insecurity, and maximizing nutrition awareness.  Both NCL and Gerber value giving back to their communities.  As NCL and Gerber forge a consumer-focused alliance for the future, Gerber has agreed to continue its commitment to consumers and nutrition by providing an in-kind donation to certain local food banks and other organizations as a supplement to its regular donations.  These organizations provide crucial assistance to vulnerable residents of the D.C. metropolitan area especially in times of need.  NCL thanks Gerber for working with our organization and its support of NCL’s mission.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.