Congress Introduces The Modern Television Act of 2019 To Combat Network Blackouts

Congressman and House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), today introduced the Modern Television Act of 2019. The bill aims to repeal outdated regulations of the 1992 Cable Act, including retransmission consent and compulsory copyright license, to increase competition in the TV marketplace and to better address perennial broadcast TV blackouts.

Over the past few months, customers from across the nation have been facing major network blackouts caused by network and carrier disputes. Most recently, DirecTV dropped Nexstar affiliates, CBS O&O locals, and CBS in its entirety on DIRECTV NOW. Dish has dropped Meredith affiliates and had a 9 month battle with Univision which saw the channel go dark across Dish — and to ultimately never return to their streaming service Sling TV.

In April, PlayStation Vue dropped NESN from their streaming service, after having a lengthy dispute with Sinclair last year.

The bill was first introduced in 2013, then again in 2018 as the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act. It would protect consumers from experiencing broadcast blackouts when MVPDs and broadcasters fail to extend an agreement by requiring MVPDs carry a broadcast signal while the parties continue negotiations for up to 60 days. Parties are retroactively paid for their content aired during this time.

The Modern Television Act of 2019 also repeals retransmission consent, compulsory copyright licenses, and several other outdated statutory provisions and regulations, allowing free-market contract negotiations to happen under traditional copyright law. In the past, the bill hasn’t passed due to major opposition from broadcasters. However, given the multitude of blackouts that have occurred across major markets recently, it’ll be interesting to see if the bill passes this time around.