Why does programming differ from community to community?
Under federal law, cable operators are allowed to select the programming they want to carry and to package that programming in a manner they determine is best. Cable operators consider a number of factors when deciding how to package their programming. Legal, technical, financial, and demographic factors can influence the cable operator's decision to carry certain channels. For example, federal regulations require cable operators to include certain over-the-air broadcast channels along with other local channels on the basic service tier.
Are cable operators required to carry local broadcast programming?
Yes, but this is subject to negotiation between the cable operators and broadcasters. Federal law provides broadcasters the option of either requiring a cable operator serving the relevant market to carry its station (“must-carry”), or requesting compensation from the cable operator for the right to carry the broadcaster’s station (“retransmission consent”). Many larger broadcasters choose retransmission consent, and the resultant compensation from cable operators is often passed through to subscribers in the form of a “Broadcast TV Fee” or similar charge. Many smaller broadcasters choose to invoke their must-carry rights.
How can I get my cable operator to change its programming?
However, cities and towns may, in the municipality's cable license agreement, require the operator to carry broad categories of programming. Subscribers should communicate their programming preferences to their cable operator so that the operator can make programming decisions with the needs of its customers in mind.
Whom do I contact to obtain further information?
If you have complaints or concerns regarding the programming provided on your cable service, you should contact your Issuing Authority. For general questions or further information, please contact the Department of Telecommunications and Cable, Consumer Division. Additional information regarding programming, must carry, and retransmission consent requirements is also available at the Federal Communications Commission's website at www.fcc.gov.