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Broadcasters, Cable Industry Renew Attacks Over Blackouts

In new ads, broadcasters are accused of flip-flopping, and cable providers are blamed for disputes

CBS and Showtime may be back on Time Warner Cable, but the TV industry and the cable and satellite businesses remain in attack mode.

In two ads that ran in Politico this week, the American Television Alliance, which advocates for the providers, used the image of a pair of flip-flops to accuse broadcasters of changing their tune on what it means to pay “fair value” to access their shows. The group is asking lawmakers to intervene.

Also read: John McCain Wants Pay Channels Sold Individually, Not In Bundles

“Congress established retransmission consent to support local programming. At the time, broadcasters assured everyone that would be the case,” one of the ads reads. “Now, it’s clear they’ve broken their promise. Retransmission consent was not meant to subsidize the networks. It’s time for Congress to fix it.”

Not to be outdone, the National Association of Broadcasters, a TV-industry lobbying group, has released its own ad this week in Politico and Communications Daily, slamming three specific cable providers for the pulled signals.

Screen shot 2013-09-11 at 11.55.08 AM“There are three big companies involved in 90 percent of viewer disruptions — Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish,” the ad (at right) reads. “Agreements that have worked for all the other guys don’t fly with these big three TV providers, who put their political agendas before viewers to encourage government intervention in a free market process.”

The ads were released to coincide with two hearings into the issues in the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday a panel of  the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing examining whether the law setting regulations for satellite TV needs to change. On Wednesday a panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee took a broader look at video regulation.

Breakdowns in negotiations between cable and broadcast channels and cable providers over the fees they charge to carry their content have resulted in a number of pulled signals in recent years. They have also resulted in calls for legislative action and proposals, such as one currently being circulated by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to let customers buy their pay channels on an a la carte basis.

These disputes have become a central topic during the hearings. An NAB witness Gerry Waldron used his time at the microphone to say that most disputes were resolved privately and argued that consumers were 20 times more likely to lose access to stations because of a power outage than they were from retransmission blackouts, Multichannel News reports.