The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires TV stations and cable providers to negotiate new agreements every three years. Prior to the early 2000’s, TV stations usually allowed cable companies to carry their signals for little or no charge. But as TV stations have seen their advertising revenues shrink and demands from their affiliated network for a share of any fees, retransmission consent costs for cable companies have skyrocketed. That has forced cable companies, including Iowa’s 19 municipal cable companies, to make some difficult decisions.
At Spencer Municipal Utilities (SMU), the spiraling costs meant that keeping TV stations with duplicate network affiliations was no longer a luxury that SMU and customers could afford. SMU decided to drop the two TV stations from their lineup in an effort to keep costs to a minimum. As SMU explained to customers in a news release on their website:
“Since 2009, SMU has been paying to bring most of the broadcast channels to customers in Spencer. There is a misconception that we get many of the broadcast channels for free and should be able to pass them along to customers that way. SMU has been doing what we can to keep cable costs affordable for customers and we negotiated the best deals we could,” says Amanda Gloyd, marketing and community relations manager at SMU.
“The whole principle of broadcast news coverage is to offer the public a choice of viewpoint and coverage. In my mind, it is not right that Iowans do not have access to Iowa based TV stations for Iowa news, weather, sports, events, and public affair information. The local Des Moines station are very willing to work with us and allow carriage. We appreciate their efforts to try and make that happen. It is their agreements with the networks that prohibit carriage on an out of market system.”