Reps. Anna G. Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren Introduce Bill to Eliminate TV Blackouts and Reform the Video Marketplace

December 12, 2013
Press Release

Today, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), senior Member of the Judiciary Committee, introduced the Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) Act to eliminate broadcast television blackouts and give consumers greater flexibility to choose the channels they receive each month from their cable, satellite or other pay-TV provider.

"During the three months since I released draft legislation – the message from individuals, communications companies and consumer groups has been abundantly clear: our video laws are in need of reform," said Rep. Eshoo. "My bill would put an end to broadcast television blackouts and ensure consumers aren't held hostage by a dispute they have no control over. Recurring TV blackouts coupled with the rising cost of broadcast television programming has left consumers frustrated and looking to Congress and the FCC for answers.

"To add insult to injury, consumers have begun seeing these programming increases in the form of below-the-line-fees on their monthly bills." Rep. Eshoo continued, "I look forward to working with Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee to advance meaningful bipartisan reform that promotes healthy competition, consumer choice and continued innovation across the video marketplace."

"Internet users and television customers should not be held hostage when business negotiation disputes arise between cable and content providers," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren. "It's unfair to subject consumers to service blackouts or blocked online content. This bill offers the basic consumer protections and choices they should receive in television and online services."

The Video CHOICE Act has five key provisions:

1.    Preventing Broadcast Television Blackouts: Gives the FCC explicit statutory authority to grant interim carriage of a television broadcast station during a retransmission consent negotiation impasse.
2.    Ensuring Consumer Choice in Cable Programming: Ensures that a consumer can purchase cable television service without subscribing to the broadcast stations electing retransmission consent.
3.    Wholesale Unbundling of Broadcast Stations in Retransmission Consent Negotiations: Prohibits a television broadcast station engaged in a retransmission consent negotiation from making their owned or affiliated cable programming a condition for receiving broadcast programming.
4.    Examination into the Blocking of a Broadcast Station's Owned or Affiliated Online Content During Retransmission Consent Negotiations:  Instructs the FCC to examine whether the blocking of a television broadcast station's owned or affiliated online content during a retransmission consent negotiation constitutes a failure to negotiate in "good faith."
5.    FCC Study of Sports Programming Costs: Calls for an FCC study of programming costs for regional and national sports networks in the top 20 regional sports markets.

A copy of the bill can be found here.

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