Cable Companies Will No Longer be Required to Give 30 Day Notice of Channel Blackouts

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The FCC has approved a rule change saying that cable operators will no longer need to give customers 30 days notice before a channel is removed from a cable package.

The wording now says that cable operators must give customer notice of the loss of a channel “as soon as possible,” rather than specifying 30 days. The FCC acknowledged last month that programming rights sometimes come down to the wire, making it difficult for cable operators to know so far in advance whether the channels will be removed due to failed negotiations.

The 30 day notice rule has only applied to cable operators,
not streaming services. While we’ve seen streaming services give advanced
notice of changes to channel lineups, we’ve also seen distribution disagreements
be resolved in the final minutes before a contract expires.

Without the 30 day rule, the FCC says operators should
notify customers “without delay” when the operator “is reasonably certain
it will no longer be carrying the programming at issue, and, if possible,
before the programming goes dark.”

When approving the change, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in a statement, “Today we update our rules for the real world,” she said. “We determine that instead of a strict 30-day notice of a dispute that could lead to a loss of programming, it is better if consumers are just notified that a blackout is likely as soon as possible.”

“This is a modern approach. It has my support,” Rosenworcel continued. “But one word of caution. This decision speaks at length about burdens on companies, but I believe the guiding principle here should be updating our policies for the benefit of consumers. In the end, I think the changes we make here do just that. However, if they are put in practice in a way that shortchanges consumers, we will need to revisit this approach.”

The Commission did note that 30 day advance notice should still be given when changes to programming are within the cable operator’s control. and when there will be a change in rates. The order still states that notices should include “the precise amount of the rate change and explain the reason for the change in readily understandable terms.”

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