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Cable Operators No Longer Need to Give 30-Day Notice If They Might Drop a Channel

Jason Gurwin

In the past year, carriage disputes have become more and more common.

Based on a change by the FCC, cable operators like Comcast and Charter, no longer have to give 30 days advance notice if they may lose a channel. In early October, the FCC passed new rules that changes the rule to “as soon as possible”, rather than 30 days notice.

Specifically, The Commission said “we amend section 76.1603 of our rules to clarify that when service changes occur due to retransmission consent or program carriage negotiations that fail within the last 30 days of a contract, cable operators must provide notice to subscribers ‘as soon as possible,’ rather than 30 days in advance.”

The FCC defines “as soon as possible” as when the cable company “is reasonably certain it will no longer be carrying the programming at issue, and, if possible, before the programming goes dark.”

Given that most carriage disputes go down to the wire, it is unlikely that customers will now know ahead of time that they are at risk of losing a channel — until right before a channel may be removed.

This is similar to the recent last second surprises from Live TV Streaming Services like YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV when losing a channel, which don’t fall under this provision. Prior to their shut down, PlayStation Vue used to have a contract renewal page that listed expiring agreements.

Currently, Comcast has a website that displays all upcoming contract renewals in the next 60 days (even though they were only required to display 30). Based on the new rules, they would no longer need to do so.

The change for cable operators only has to do with negotiations that fail in the final 30 days, so they will still be required to make notice of channel changes if they plan to no longer carry a channel before then. In addition to send customers written or electronic notice, it is now sufficient for cable operators to simply display the loss of programming as a message on the formerly carried channel.

The Commission did confirm that cable operators must continue to provide at least 30 day notice for rate changes.

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