From City Hall News:
At a contentious July Council hearing on consumer rights, Council Member Lew Fidler argued that consumers of cable television are the victims of stalled negotiations between broadcasters and cable service providers and they don’t even know it.
“Consumers will be seated at the table when the big boys fight,” Fidler said to broadcast industry lobbyists at the hearing. “You will not decide how much you can suck out of our pocket without our participation. You operate under a public license on public airwaves and the public will not be damned.”
Fidler and fellow committee members warned broadcasters they would fight to change lax, decades-old federal rules governing cable service agreements that allow networks to cut service and allow screens to go dark when their demands are not met.
Those price wars, in which networks negotiate a price to provide channels to local cable providers, have gotten uglier over the past years as networks such as ABC threatened to pull channels when their price demands weren’t met. Last year, for example, New Yorkers were left in the dark for the first quarter-hour of the Academy Awards while ABC and Cablevision struck their final service agreements.
That is unacceptable, Fidler said.
Dan Garodnick, chair of the technology committee, said new laws should protect consumers during negotiations and prevent service interruptions while any disputes are solved.
“We don’t want the public to continue to get caught in the middle of these very high profile negotiations between broadcasters and cable companies. They should not be the collateral damage of failed negotiations,” he said.
Garodnick and Fidler are two of a handful of legislators nationwide who have called on the FCC to investigate their rules. Cable providers have also begun lobbying the federal agency by forming an alliance called the American Television Alliance, the sole purpose of which is to promote the change, according to an FCC spokesperson.
Broadcast lobbyists were neutral on the idea of changing FCC regulations, Garodnick said.
Council members plan to vote on a resolution supporting a rule change, in the hopes of spurring a citywide public outcry that could lead to new legislation at the federal level.
But Fidler warned the issue will fade without the backing of consumers.
“If we can get some attention on this issue, we can move the ball down the field,” Fidler said.
Read the rest of the article on City Hall News.