LIN Media blacked out programming on 27 stations in 17 markets for a total of eight days during a fee dispute with DISH Network. According to a release by the American Cable Association (ACA), the Univision affiliate WUNI in Providence RI has been blacked out on the local Full Channel TV cable system for 30 days, due to a dispute over retransmission fees. The same release points to a situation in Topeka KS where two broadcasters — who reportedly coordinate on retransmission negotiations — will own stations that provide three of the top four networks in that market: ABC, NBC, and FOX. This raises the specter of them pulling all three at once in the event of a fee dispute with a cable or satellite service provider.
Reading the tea leaves, I don’t think that the federal government can ignore the problem of retransmission fee negotiations much longer. A content provider should not be expected to provide their programming for a price lower than what they want, but the subscribers of the cable and satellite service should have a reasonable expectation of receiving the programming that they have paid for. I don’t pretend to have a fair way to resolve the problem, but these service interruptions are just going to get more heated as time goes on. The FCC has proposed rules for this problem, but something needs to be put in place soon.