/// Lawmakers Ponder Blackouts in Senate Hearing
Like consumers, Senate Commerce Committee members don’t like blackouts on cable systems. But they aren’t sure what, if anything, to do about it. After two years of trying to badger the Federal Communications Commission to act on solving blackouts, lawmakers have finally come around to the realization that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to do anything. In what will probably be the first of many hearings on the Cable Act—the law often blamed for blackouts—lawmakers today tried to sort through the contentious and often uncompromising positions of broadcasters and cable systems. Perhaps knowing what sort of tinderbox he had sitting before him, chairman John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) tried to steer the debate to the plight of the consumer caught in the middle. “Overheated rhetoric alleging greed and bad faith is of little comfort to someone paying for services they are not getting,” Rockefeller said. In Rockefeller’s view, the Cable Act hasn’t achieved its goal to bring more video services at lower costs to consumers. “Consumers have to pay too much and have very little choice in picking the content they receive. Rates continue to go up faster than the rate of inflation year in and year out,” said Rockefeller, who has yet to offer any legislative solution. “They are tired of it. I am tired of it.” So far, there’s only one piece of legislation addressing blackouts. A bill introduced late last year by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) would not only eliminate the Cable Act, but also the compulsory license (a fee aggregated by the government to pay program producers).
Lawmakers Ponder Blackouts in Senate Hearing