Cable and satellite TV providers may not be the only ones required to refund customers during network blackouts under the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal.
In the notice of proposed rulemaking, released on January 17, the FCC said it’s focusing on cable and satellite TV providers, but some of the rule’s proponents say the refund requirement should encompass more providers, including streaming services like YouTube TV Fubo, Hulu, and more.
“[G]iven that the authority upon which we base this proposal is cable and DBS-specific, are those the only entities to which this proposal should apply?” The FCC wrote in the notice of proposed rulemaking, adding in a related footnote that some commenters have asked about whether the rule should apply more broadly.
This comes as an increasing number of carriage disputes between cable operators and satellite TV providers and broadcast and media companies have resulted in blackouts for channels that customers pay to watch. At the same time streaming services have also seen fights with some locals over the last few years that resulted in blackouts.
“You should get what you pay for. It’s a simple principle. But for too many consumers, this is not happening. When they turn on the television to watch the local news, their favorite show, or the big game, the screen goes dark,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
Rosenworcel went on to say that these blackouts are occurring more frequently and for longer periods of time.
The cable and satellite companies have argued against this policy, saying it puts undue pressure on them to resolve the dispute at a time when broadcast and media companies are asking for higher fees to carry their channels and programs.
In the last three years, there have been 83 blackouts due to feuds between companies like DIRECTV and Nexstar, and Spectrum and Disney. Most recently, DIRECTV and Tegna reached an agreement to restore 64 TV stations to customers in 51 markets that went dark in late 2023.
The Commission is currently seeking public comment on the proposal.