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A History of Programming Disputes

cable TV starts in 1948


Cable television first became available in the US in 1948, with subscription services to relay over-the-air commercial broadcasting television channels.

Rabbit ears needed need for reception

1948 - 1972

Cable television extends the geographic reach of over-the-air television stations and provides for consistently good quality reception not available with a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears.

cable operators must carry all local broadcasters


The FCC implements the "Must-Carry Rule". The Must-Carry rule mandates that cable companies carry the signals of all local broadcasters within a 60-mile area.



The FCC passes the Retransmission Act of 1992, gave stations a choice of requiring cable companies to carry them under the Must-Carry rule or negotiating with cable companies for compensation if they want to carry their broadcast signals.

programming becomes available off-air for free


Cable operators generally resisted broadcaster demands for cash compensation on the grounds that the programming was available "off-air" for free.

programming disputes


Broadcasters increase demands for cash compensation for programming carriage. Cable companies and other operators begin to agree to cash payments. Occasionally, broadcasters remove a channel from cable operators when fees are in dispute.

public disputes and programming blackouts

2011 - present

Broadcasters ask for gigantic fee increases from distributors -- as much as 300%! Broadcasters and operators engage in several public disputes resulting in customer blackouts.
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Reprinted from with permission. © 2021 Ziff Davis, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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