Wheeler 'Concerned' About Blocked Content During Retrans Fights
Retransmission disputes between broadcasters and pay TV providers have grown increasingly ugly the last few years, with a soaring number of users facing blacked out content during disputes. Users not only face TV content blackouts, they're then used as public relations pinatas in very public feuds, right before being a deal is covertly struck, and users are socked with rate hikes regardless.
But we've been noting how there's also a growing tactic of blocking consumers from legit online content. For example, CableOne broadband customers currently can't access Viacom content and some websites
because CableOne and Viacom are fighting over TV retrans fee rates. Even if you're paying for TV through another provider (like Dish or DirecTV) and have CableOne broadband, you can't access Viacom video content you're technically paying for
That's a pretty big deal the more you think about it, though so far regulators have napped through this sort of behavior, acting as if it's just "boys being boys" in business negotiations. This week FCC boss Tom Wheeler at least "expressed concern" about the practice in a hearing in DC
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler expressed concern during a congressional hearing over the growing practice of programmers blocking access to their websites during fights with pay-TV and broadband providers. Asked by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) if such incidents are a sign of the "cable-ization" of the Internet, a reference to the television blackouts that often occur when networks are unable to strike new distribution agreements, Wheeler said it is something "we should all worry about."
Apparently it's not so worrying that the regulators tasked with overseeing the industry should actually do something about it (or even do a little saber rattling), however. In fact none of the companies engaging in any anti-consumer behavior during retrans fights have seen so much as a wrist slap for the practice.