Last year’s CBS blackout was terrible for everyone. Here’s one idea to fix it.

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[Commentary] Remember the Great CBS Blackout of 2013? The Federal Communications Commission signaled that it wants to end TV stations' ability to jointly negotiate content fees with cable companies, a tactic that the FCC says has helped drive up the rates that Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other providers must pay broadcasters in exchange for their programming.

Known as "retransmission consent," the arrangement has been an incredibly lucrative one for TV stations. Broadcasters stand to lose some of their leverage as a result of the proposed ban on joint bargaining, said Brent Skorup, a policy analyst at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

"Blackouts will never totally disappear, but retrans payments make them more frequent," he said. Taking the sting out of retransmission fees -- by forcing TV stations to negotiate individually with cable companies -- could help ward off the worst disputes between networks and cable companies. And that could mean fewer events like the CBS blackout.

[March 7]


Last year’s CBS blackout was terrible for everyone. Here’s one idea to fix it.