A group of local broadcast stations, including ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS affiliates, have banded together in a bid to try and get lawmakers and regulators to close what The Coalition for Local News refers to as a “streaming loophole.”
With the advent of live TV streaming services, there has been quite a change to how people access their local stations. In many cases, the change has meant losing access to local stations with some live TV streaming services preferring to drop the channels instead of paying the requested rates.
Technically, this is not something that’s possible with traditional cable and satellite providers. As The Coalition for Local News explains in a press release, current FCC rules require cable and satellite providers to negotiate directly with local broadcasters for carriage of their stations.
With streaming services currently excluded from this rule, this is what the coalition means when referring to a “streaming loophole.” It is also this difference that the coalition wants to remedy by getting lawmakers and regulators to ensure streaming services also have to negotiate directly with local broadcasters for carriage of their stations.
In total, the coalition says it represents more than 600 local TV stations across the country, and the purpose of the new advocacy group is to urge “lawmakers and regulators to act now to protect the future of local news in America.”
“The Coalition for Local News is dedicated to the belief that local news is essential to the well-being of local communities across the nation and is a vital pillar of American democracy. As the most trusted source of news for Americans, local news broadcasts provide timely coverage of important issues and events, emergency weather service, and access to lifesaving information.”
Essentially, the advocacy group argues that the current rules have resulted in local stations being unable to negotiate the rates they say they need to continue to invest in local news.
We did recently see an example of this during a dispute between Fubo and CBS affiliates. The dispute resulted in Fubo dropping a number of CBS affiliates and Paramount Global stepping in to provide Fubo subscribers with access to the national CBS feed instead.
Instances like this are examples of how, in the coalition’s words, “local television stations have lost control of their retransmission consent rights under current rules that cut them out of the negotiating process with streaming services.“
The coalition would rather local TV stations have the ability to negotiate directly with a live TV streaming service rather than those services negotiate with the national owner on their behalf. Sticking with the recent Fubo dispute as an example, Paramount Global’s CBS agreed a deal with Fubo and then presented that deal to the CBS affiliates. Many of them, however, weren’t happy with the deal, and this is what ultimately led to the channels being dropped.
The argument here is that if the current situation continues, it is likely that more blackouts will continue and more homes will lose access to their local stations. Of course, the opposite is likely to mean an increase in the price that live TV streaming services pay, leading to an increase in the price that subscribers pay for their live TV plan.