Retransmission consent is a provision of the 1992 United States Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act that requires cable operators and other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming.
A broadcast station (or its affiliated/parent broadcast network) may propose that the cable operator, such as Time Warner Cable, pay cash to carry the station or ask for any other form of consideration, such as an additional channel for supplementary programs. The cable operator may also refuse the broadcaster's proposal, in which case the station may refuse to allow the cable operator to retransmit its signal.
America's Talking (now MSNBC), FX, and ESPN2 all originated through retransmission consent deals in the early 1990s. Many PBS stations received additional local channels. This was perceived by broadcasters as a corrective to the "must carry" rules that mandated cable operators to carry all significantly viewed local stations. Smaller, independent stations could either decide to keep their must carry status or to enter into negotiation with cable operators. Many opted to remain covered by must carry.
Retransmission consent has drawn criticism from the cable operators who distribute programming, and who thus must seek consent from the broadcasters who directly pay for program content, and praise from broadcasters whose permission to distribute must be sought.
At a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation that reviewed the Cable Act 20 years after its passage, Melinda Witmer, executive vice president and chief video and content officer at Time Warner Cable, argued that the rule has become a "subsidy for the national broadcast networks...rather than a source of support for local broadcasting" as Congress intended. She said that retransmission consent has led to ever more frequent programming blackouts, with minimal FCC oversight. At the same hearing, Martin Franks, executive vice president of planning, policy and government relations at CBS, called retransmission consent "one of the great Washington public policy accomplishments of the intervening two decades," renewing "vitality to broadcast television that prior to 1992 was being consigned to the dust heap of history." Witmer said 2012 had already seen 69 blackouts. Franks said that most of the 15,000 carriage disputes argued over the past three years came to a successful resolution.
On March 3, 2011, the FCC began soliciting comments on proposed changes to the consent rule with the aim of minimizing programming disruptions. The rule changes would give consumers more notice of upcoming negotiations, provide more guidance for those negotiations, and funnel more oversight to the commission and away from the courts.
- "Retransmission Consent". FCC Encyclopedia. U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
- Gardner, Eriq (July 24, 2012). "TV Executives Debate Retrans Rules in Congressional Hearing". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
- Carriage dispute
- Fee-for-carriage - a similar proposed policy supported by broadcasters in Canada
- Significantly viewed