Advice on Consent: Rethinking Retransmission Consent on Its 25th Anniversary


Thursday, July 27, 2017 – 11:00 A.M. EDT


Advice on Consent: Rethinking Retransmission Consent on Its 25th Anniversary


Part of the 1992 Cable Act was a then new approach to the relationship between local commercial television broadcast stations and both cable television and satellite TV “multichannel video providers” (“MVPDs”). Under the terms of the Act, every three years local stations, licensed to provide programming attuned to the needs and interests of communities within their over-the-air service areas, could choose: (1) traditional “must carry,” where their signals simply would be carried by MVPDs; or (2) “retransmission consent,” where an MVPD only could carry that local commercial station if the parties reached a “retransmission consent” agreement.

The congressional intent in passing that portion of 1992 Cable Act was to further the long-standing concept of “broadcast localism” and to better ensure that local stations – licensed by the FCC to serve the local public – had the financial resources to do so in an era of increasing video competition and choices for the viewing public. But, is that 1992-created system still achieving its stated goal?

For more than two decades we’ve seen significant escalation in the prices paid by MVPDs to carry TV stations choosing the retrans option, as well as revised network affiliation agreements now tending to shift the bulk of these retrans fees from local TV stations to the programming networks with which they are affiliated (and sometimes owned). Many television markets have been the sites for highly-publicized “games of chicken” and viewer angst where local stations and MVPDs could not reach prompt agreement, leading to sometimes lengthy station “blackouts.”

So, what’s the legislative and regulatory future for retransmission consent in an era of new television platforms, changed business models and levels of video competition far different than existed in 1992? With the Congress and the FCC giving priority to wide-ranging legislative and regulatory reform, is retransmission consent a likely target? And, if so, how will the public’s interests best be served by any changes?

This Digital Policy Institute webinar presents a panel of experts who assess the economic and communications policy issues, weigh the equities and offer some predictions.

“TV Station Industry Overview” – by Justin Nielson, Senior Research Analyst with Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.  Published with permission of Kagan/S&P Global.


  • Justin Nielson, Senior Research Analyst, Broadcast Media Kagan/S&P Global Market Intelligence, Monterey, CA.
  • Ryan Radia, Research Fellow and Regulatory Counsel, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, DC.
  • Lawrence J. Spiwak, President, Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies, Washington, DC.
  • MODERATOR: Barry Umansky, Senior Research Fellow and Senior Policy Advisor, Digital Policy Institute, Ball State University, Muncie, IN.


Justin Nielson

Justin Nielson is a Senior Research Analyst with Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, covering the broadcast and new media sectors.  Mr. Nielson regularly contributes to Kagan’s Broadcast Investor: Deals & Finance and Internet Media Investor newsletters as well as the S&P Global Market Intelligence Media & Communications online database.  He is also a contributing analyst to various Kagan data books including Ad Forecasts, Media Trends, Radio/TV Station Deals & Finance, Radio & TV Station Annual Outlook, as well as lead analyst on industry whitepapers including the Economics of Broadcast TV Retransmission Revenue, Economics of Internet Music and Radio, and Future of 4-K and Internet TV.

In addition, he serves as a consultant for Kagan Media Appraisals. His industry expertise has made Mr. Nielson a frequently quoted analyst in numerous trade publications as well as such national press as Bloomberg, CNBC, Forbes, NPR, Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

Prior to joining Kagan in November 2007, Mr. Nielson was a Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Smith Inc. located in Carlsbad, CA and served as lead investment analyst for the Geiler, Piscaer, Nielson Group.  Mr. Nielson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Ryan Radia

As Research Fellow and Regulatory Counsel, Ryan Radia focuses on adapting law and public policy to the unique challenges of the information age. His research areas at the Competitive Enterprise Institute include intellectual property, information privacy, telecommunications, cybersecurity, competition policy, media regulation, and Internet freedom.

Radia has published articles in major news outlets including The Seattle Times, Forbes, San Jose Mercury News, The Star-Ledger, Ad Age, Investor’s Business Daily, and Ars Technica. He has been quoted in publications including the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, TIME, Fortune, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, POLITICO, The Baltimore Sun, and Bloomberg. He has appeared on dozens of television and radio programs, including “Marketplace” on National Public Radio, “Cavuto” on Fox Business Network, and the “Laura Ingraham Show” on Talk Radio Network.

Radia also blogs on the Technology Liberation Front, a group technology policy blog dedicated to advancing freedom and liberty in the digital age. His commentary has been referenced by blogs including The Atlantic’s Daily Dish, The Washington Post’s Faster Forward, and Techdirt. His research has been cited scholarly journals such as the Brooklyn Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, and the Iowa Law Review Bulletin.

Radia earned his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School, where he served as Senior Articles Editor of the Federal Communications Law Journal. He also holds a B.A. in economics from Northwestern University. Before joining CEI in 2007, he worked in the alternative risk financing sector.

He is admitted to the District of Columbia Bar.

Lawrence J. Spiwak

Lawrence J. Spiwak is President of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies (, a non-profit 501(c)(3) research organization that studies broad public-policy issues related to governance, social and economic conditions, with a particular emphasis on the law and economics of the digital age. Mr. Spiwak is a prolific scholar whose work is frequently cited by policymakers, major news media and academic journals around the world, and is in the top 1.3% of authors downloaded on the Social Science Research Network.

Mr. Spiwak currently serves as the co-chair of the Federal Communications Bar Association’s (FCBA) committee responsible for overseeing the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS LAW JOURNAL and is a member of the program committee of the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (“TPRC”). In 2012, Mr. Spiwak was awarded the FCBA’s Distinguished Service Award by his peers. Prior to joining the Phoenix Center, Mr. Spiwak was a Senior Attorney with the Competition Division in the FCC’s Office of General Counsel from 1994-1998. While in college, Mr. Spiwak was accepted into the Presidential Stay-In School program where he was responsible for delivering classified and confidential material among senior White House and Reagan Administration officials and received a full FBI security clearance.

Mr. Spiwak received his B.A. with Special Honors from the George Washington University and his J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Mr. Spiwak is a member in good standing of the bars of New York, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Barry D. Umansky

Barry D. Umansky is co-executive director, senior fellow, senior policy advisor and board member/secretary of the Digital Policy Institute (“DPI”) and a professor in the Telecommunications Department at Ball State University (“BSU”).   Umansky formerly held the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Chair in Telecommunications at BSU. He is a communications lawyer who has represented broadcasters and other electronic media and has had an extensive communications career in government and industry.

After work at radio and TV stations in the Midwest during college and law school, he served for seven years as an attorney doing communications policy work at the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Umansky then became Deputy General Counsel with the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”) in Washington, D.C.  During his twenty years at the NAB Legal and Regulatory Affairs Department, he had responsibilities for radio and television new technology and spectrum allocation issues, environmental and land use issues, station licensing and other regulatory matters.  He edited and co-authored many NAB publications, including several editions of the NAB Legal Guide to Broadcast Law and Regulation, the NAB Broadcaster’s Guide to FCC RF Radiation Regulation Compliance and the NAB Contests, Lotteries and Casino Gambling Guidebook.  Mr. Umansky served as a member of the boards of the former Washington-based Electromagnetic Energy Association and the National Antenna Consortium.

He has been an active member of the Federal Communications Bar Association.  He is a Past-President of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Foundation, where he still serves as a board member.   He also is a Past-President of the Broadcast Education Association.

In April 2012, he was appointed by the Chairman of the FCC to serve on its Consumer Advisory Committee.   In March 2013, he was reappointed to that federal advisory committee and was named co-chair of that federal advisory committee’s “Internet Protocol Transition Working Group.”  In May 2015, he again was reappointed to the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee and was named co-chair of the CAC “Media Working Group.”    He completed this latest CAC appointment during 2016.

In addition to his DPI duties and undergraduate and graduate teaching responsibilities at Ball State, Mr. Umansky is faculty advisor to two Ball State student organizations: “Station WCRD” (a student-managed and FCC licensed broadcast radio station) and the university’s “Pre-Law Interest Group.”

Mr. Umansky is a frequent speaker at communications industry meetings and often is quoted on communications policy matters in industry and general press and on radio and television programs.  He is a graduate of Carleton College and the Washington University School of Law. Umansky also is a member of the District of Columbia and Missouri bars.