About Programming

Programming Costs

The Broadcaster's Bargain

Since the earliest days of television, broadcast stations – NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox -- have been granted free use of the public airwaves by law. That’s a public subsidy worth billions of dollars. In exchange, the only obligation broadcasters must meet is to serve the public interest. More than sixty years later, the public subsidy continues, but the public interest side of the bargain is too often ignored.

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Because of an old TV law called “retransmission consent,” cable and satellite companies are required to carry local broadcast stations, and broadcasters insist customers pay for them. Broadcasters often threaten to black out their signals, even though their programming remains available for free over the air with an antenna, and also online. In 2013, there were 127 blackouts around the country, up from 91 in 2012 and 51 in 2011. And retransmission fees have soared: 119 times the rate of inflation over the last eight years.

“Local Choice” legislation now being considered by Congress would address this situation. With Local Choice, customers could choose whether or not to pay for each broadcast station. If they don’t watch a particular station or prefer to use a separate antenna to receive it, they would not be required to pay for retransmission. Your support can make local choice a reality.