Frequently Asked Questions
What is retransmission consent?
Since 1992, television stations have been authorized by the U.S. Congress to grant or deny permission for cable television systems to carry their signals. This right comes up for renewal every three years. Many of our current agreements with broadcasters expire at the end of this year. Now, some broadcasters are asking for enormous fee increases, sometimes as much 300%! Sparklight is working hard to keep these increases fair so we don't have to pass these unreasonable demands onto our customers.
How does retransmission consent affect me?
We know price is an important issue to our customers. The price we charge our customers is directly affected by what we pay for programming. That is why we are trying so hard to control increasing programming costs. If we agree to enormous fee demands from local broadcasters, that means higher prices for you. However, if we don't agree to a broadcaster's demand they require us to remove their station from our channel line-up.
Are you going to be dropping stations?
We hope not and will make every effort to reach a fair deal. However, broadcasters are asking for outrageous fee increases, some in the triple digits. These types of demands are unreasonable and we don't want to pass on these higher costs to our customers. If we don't agree to their fees, some broadcasters may force us to remove their programming.
I pay Sparklight to make sure I get my favorite shows, but when there is a contract dispute, I'm told I may lose my channels. Who is responsible for taking them away?
Sparklight does not take stations away in a contract dispute. The station owner holds the ultimate right to decide if it will make its licensed programming available to cable subscribers in its market and will use that right in negotiations. Station owners do take away programming from customers and try to blame cable companies because we connect your TV to that channel. They employ this tactic to try and extract excessive prices that will drive up your monthly bill to unacceptable levels. We believe these actions are wrong and anti-consumer, but rest assured we will do everything we can to convince the station owner to return your channels if they ever take them down. Our goal is to always keep you connected while working toward a fair deal to keep your bill as low as possible.
Why shouldn't I just switch to some other cable, satellite or telco video provider who can promise me what I want?
Unfortunately, these disruptions have become an industry-wide problem. No pay TV provider is immune. Both cable and satellite companies are being forced to drop channels as a result of disputes over the exorbitant programming fees that programmers are demanding. See News Around the World for the many recent cable/satellite channel blackouts across the U.S.
Why don't you just give the station or network owners what they want so I'm 100 percent protected against ever losing any of my favorite shows?
We're more than willing to compensate station owners and network owners fairly, but some broadcasters try to deny you the channels you want, at least temporarily, in order to extort more money from satellite, cable or telco video providers that will drive up what you pay for TV service.
We're often presented ridiculous rates for channels that have taken a dip in ratings, no longer carry popular programming or cannot produce a quality product because of a lack of investment. As long as station or network owners can take their channels away, blame the pay TV provider, and make customers upset enough to potentially switch providers, they believe they have Sparklight—and you—over a barrel. This is why we've created www.StopProgrammingHikes.com — to help keep you informed so you can make up your own mind.
If so many of these disputes involve local broadcasts stations, why don't you just make a deal with ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC or CW rather than their local affiliates?
FCC rules demand that we negotiate separately with every one of the hundreds of different stations licensed to show those networks' programs in their respective communities. Most of the time these agreements get done behind closed doors and privately, just as they should. But now some network owners would rather threaten to pull their station(s) out of your line-up so they can attempt to drive up their prices two or three times the amount they've ever received before. It's simply not sustainable for anyone. We feel these practices are a complete abuse of the public trust and station's license to free use of the airwaves.
Why don't people just get whatever channel is missing with an over-the-air antenna?
In many cases it's as simple as that. If you're missing a local ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, or NBC station, all you have to do is turn off your Sparklight receiver and turn to the channel on your television set. If you have a newer digital television set, usually the antenna is built right in. As with the old rabbit ears, the reception depends on where you live and whether there are buildings or other obstacles in the way between you and the station's transmitters. You can often boost that reception with a fairly inexpensive external digital antenna available from any local electronics store. Today's antennas are also quite small and convenient. Nine times out of ten, these disputes involve local broadcast channels, but if it's a cable or satellite network the owner has removed from your line-up, much of the programming is available online. It's not ideal, but it's usually enough to keep you connected during the short period of time it usually takes to work out these disputes.