New ATA Lobbies To Prevent Cable Carriage Disputes

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A number of major TV cable and satellite distributors have put together a new Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group: American Television Alliance.

Specifically, the ATA's aim is to avoid those drastic and highly public "blackout" confrontations, where either satellite or cable distributors have testy contract negotiations with cable programmers or TV station groups.

The 31-member group -- which includes AT&T, The American Cable Association, Cablevision Systems Corp., DirecTV, Dish Network, The New America Foundation, Public Knowledge, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, among others -- says its mission is "to give TV viewers a voice."

"The ATVA coalition will focus on preventing consumer confusion, disruption and ever-increasing rates that result from outdated rules governing these carriage negotiations. Under the current law, broadcasters may cut off their television signals and shows from video service providers and consumers if they do not receive the compensation they demand."



One of the group's goals is to institute "interim carriage of over-the-air stations" if retransmission agreements expire while in the middle of negotiations.

"We've come together because we all recognize that consumers aren't getting a fair shake from broadcasters and face an unfair choice: Pay more for their favorite programs, or have them taken away," stated Matthew M. Polka, president/CEO of the American Cable Association.

Another competing TV trade organization had some terse words about the new cable operator/satellite distributor trade group.

"The notion that Time Warner and its Big Pay TV allies are part of a group designed 'to protect consumers' is about as credible as BP executives joining Greenpeace," said a National Association of Broadcasters spokesman.

"Pay TV built its business on the backs of broadcast programming, and it is not unreasonable for local TV stations to expect fair compensation for the most-watched shows on television. The ultimate irony is that Big Pay TV was against government intervention before it was for it, as evidenced by their continued opposition to net neutrality rules."

The NAB went on to say that cable profits increased five times the amount of their programming expenses during a three-year period, according to a 2009 study. It also noted that broadcasters still deliver a lot of top-rated shows that viewers want to see -- that broadcast programming accounted for 302 of Nielsen's 312 top-rated programs during the 2009-2010 season.


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