FCC Proposal Would Require Rebates For Channel Blackouts

The Federal Communications Commission has issued two proposals aimed at addressing channel blackouts.

One would require cable and satellite providers (aka multichannel video program distributors/MVPDs) to issue rebates to multichannel subscribers  when a blackout occurs due to “a failure to reach a retransmission consent agreement with broadcast station group owners."

The other would require MVPDs to notify the FCC through an online portal when there is a broadcast programming blackout lasting 24 hours or more due to a failure to reach a retransmission consent agreement.

“It’s not right when big companies battle it out and leave viewers without the ability to watch the local news, their favorite show, or the big game,” stated FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who submitted the proposals. “If the screen stays dark, [subscribers] deserve a refund.”



Like all FCC proposals, these would need to be adopted by the five-member commission and go through a public comment period before a final vote.

The proposals come on the heels of a Disney-Charter Communications standoff— one of the longest and most visible of the many blackouts that have occurred in recent years due to companies’ failure to negotiate carriage deal renewals in time to avoid those events.

The blackout caused nearly 15 million Charter Spectrum subscribers to lose access to Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC, for 10 days, starting Aug. 31.


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