When the Gloves Come Off: Could Station Disputes Become a Thing of the Past?

by Laura Hudson | September 8, 2015

If it’s up to the FCC, they will.

business man with boxing gloves

Remember when we told you all about station disputes and how cj handles them? Well, if the FCC has anything to say about it, station disputes will become a thing of the past—in other words, that’s one less process that media has to follow.

The Washington Post recently discussed how the FCC is considering ending all station disputes. Until now, they have stood on the sidelines and let cable companies and broadcasters fight it out, often resulting in a negative outcome for consumers by way of lost signals and increased cable fees. Depending on which side is telling the story, those increased fees are the result of rising broadcast retransmission fees or sports networks and cable channels. Either way, cable customers are seeing increases.

Steel Cage Match: FCC vs. Cable Companies vs. Broadcasters

The FCC is exploring a couple of options to keep retransmission fee negotiations from going south. First is a proposal to lift the ban on cable companies’ actions during a blackout. This would essentially allow a cable company to pull signal from another market—thus no blackout at all. The second option is using a more hands-on approach to the negotiations themselves by investigating what it means to negotiate in “good faith.” Just the threat of an investigation could make broadcasters less likely to put blackouts on the table if they believe the FCC will become more involved.

So far, the threat hasn’t stopped blackouts from being used as a negotiation tactic. Recently, Sinclair and DISH have been fighting it out. So far, this dust-up has resulted in a 24-hour blackout of Sinclair stations on DISH before a two-week negotiation extension brought them back on air. The FCC is conducting emergency meetings due to the pure scale of this blackout—it is the largest station blackout in pay-TV history.

So what does this mean for you?

As an advertiser, it doesn’t change much. cj negotiates and manages the rating points you receive, so if your spots are blacked out at all, you will still receive the points missed when the station returns. If station disputes are a thing of the past, your points will be achieved with less interruption.

As a consumer, it has the potential to lower your cable bill. And when was the last time that happened?