CHOICE Act Aims to Prevent Future Cable Blackouts

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CHOICE Act Aims to Prevent Future Broadcaster BlackoutsAfter a month, and a very public squabble, the long-suffering customers of Time Warner Cable got their CBS stations back last week. This was hardly an isolated incident, as blacking out channels is a common tactic used by both content providers and carriers alike to turn consumers against whichever party they think most responsible for stalled negotiations. The new CHOICE (Consumers Have Options In Choosing Entertainment) Act proposed by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo will give the FCC authority to prevent blackouts of broadcast networks, potentially split them from the rest of the cable package, and a whole lot more.

Via The Consumerist:

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.”

So far so good. Those who have antennas, or don’t care about the big broadcast networks, won’t be forced to pay for them as part of a basic cable package. But now comes my favorite part:

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.

What we pay for broadcast networks is essentially pennies. We have often have no choice, though, but to pay for sports channels, which — when they’re all added up — usually tack something closer to $8 to $10 onto our monthly bills. Splitting them off into their own package seems to be to be the biggest potential (probably pipe dream) outcome of the hearings later this week. We’ll see how it all pans out, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. There’s an army of lobbyists on both sides armed to the teeth, so if this bill actually advances, it may make our last skirmish look like splashing in the bathtub.

Read: [Full Text of the Video CHOICE Act of 2013 Draft Bill]

Via: [The Consumerist]

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