Consumers are ultimate losers in retransmission consent fights – National Consumers League

August 6, 2013

Contact: Ben Klein, NCL Communications, (202)

Washington, DC–The ongoing carriage dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS underscores the fact that the current retransmission consent regime is broken. Broadcasters have a systematic advantage over cable companies in these disputes – a fact that they continue to use to extract ever-higher carriage fees. Those costs are inevitably passed along on consumers’ cable bills.

The fallout from this dispute is now affecting more than just cable television subscribers. CBS is currently blocking subscribers of Time Warner Cable’s Internet service from its online content as well. This practice is reportedly affecting Time Warner Cable’s Internet service users indiscriminately, whether they are also cable television subscribers or not.

In response, the National Consumers League today called for movement towards much-needed reforms of broadcast retransmission consent rules to address the recurring threat of service disruptions and rising cable bills.  

“The current state of retransmission consent regulations leave consumers with two unappealing choices,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “Rising consumer cable bills are due in no small part to broadcasters’ continual push for higher carriage fees. If a cable company plays hardball in negotiations, consumers risk paying for nothing when the broadcasters’ channels go dark. Either way, consumers lose.”

More than two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would partially address these ongoing disputes. The current Time Warner Cable-CBS squabble should demonstrate to the FCC that it cannot simply leave this proceeding open and hope the problem solves itself.  

In March of this year, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told a Senate oversight panel that it “may be time to update those provisions to reduce the chances of blackouts during retransmission consent negotiations.” We couldn’t agree more. Consumers deserve an end to the never-ending cycle of higher fees and service disruptions. We urge acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and incoming Chairman Tom Wheeler to give this issue the time and attention it deserves.


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