Blackout on DirecTV. (Photo by Jackie Rehwald)


In 2020, there were 327 TV blackouts across the nation like the one we’ve been suffering since October with KOLR-10, owned by Mission Broadcasting, and DirecTV.

In all these blackouts, it’s the little guy who pays his bills who gets the short end of the remote.

Let me explain: Satellite companies like DirecTV pay for the content they offer. They can’t offer CBS programming without paying CBS for it.

When that contract expires and the two sides can’t agree to new terms, the content in question too often is dropped and, suddenly, people who are DirecTV customers and get CBS — along with another 100 channel options — no longer get CBS.

I’ve got an idea to solve this.

Actually, Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana and majority leader in the House, and Anna G. Eshoo, a California Democrat, have an idea. A bipartisan idea.

They’ve been working on this blackout problem since at least 2019.

The frustrations caused by TV blackouts

(Left) Anna Eshoo of California and (right) Steve Scalise of Louisiana (Photos: Congress)

In 2021, they again filed their Modern Television Act bill.

The first thing it would do is require that content continue for 60 days, while the two sides negotiate, after the current contract expires.

“My constituents know all too well the frustrations caused by TV blackouts and rising cable prices,” Eshoo said in a 2021 press release. “There were 327 blackouts in the country last year, including one as recently as December 2020 impacting my District.”

In the same release, Scalise said:

“Congress needs to finally modernize the outdated 1992 video laws that no longer fit today’s technology. Our bill brings back basic copyright protection laws, so that everyone gets paid for their products, and consumers get to choose whatever they want to buy, wherever they want to buy it, and watch whatever they want on any device they choose.”

If both parties later agree on a contract after 60 days, then companies like DirecTV and Dish Network must pay the broadcast company the increase retroactive to when the old contract expired.

If I had a hammer, it would be arbitration

Here’s the hammer. If there’s no agreement, even after 60 days, the Federal Communication Commission may order — if it chooses to — both companies to binding arbitration.

Yes, just like Major League Baseball, when a player and a team can’t settle on a contract.

They pick an arbitrator, negotiation ends, they advocate their case and the arbitrator decides.

The ruling is final and we, the consumers, get the programming — Cardinals or Chiefs or “60 Minutes” — for which we pay.

Should the government be involved in this?

Yes, because we the people own the airwaves and the FCC is overseer.

One work-around is an antenna

Like you, I watched the Chiefs thrilling win over the Bengals Sunday night. I viewed it at the home of friends because I pay for DirectTV, so the game on KOLR-10, a CBS affiliate, was blacked out.

In fact, KOLR-10 has been blacked out on DirectTV since Oct. 21.

My colleague Jack McGee wrote about the dispute in a Dec. 21 story.

My friends also have DirecTV, but they — like many others apparently — have been using an antenna connected to their TV to pick up CBS.

Their antennae is small. It sits a few feet from the TV, which means, most importantly, it is not on their rooftop.

I will buy one soon.

I should note that I won’t need an antenna for the Chiefs-versus-Eagles Super Bowl broadcast Feb. 12. The game is on Fox, not CBS.

The Great Cardinals Blackout of 2019

This marks the fourth time I’ve written about these contract disputes and blackouts. The prior three were when I was with the Springfield News-Leader.

In September 2019, it was the Cardinals. I drove to Aurora to meet James Smith, a life-long Cardinals fan who, at the time, was 82.

Smith had to use a walker because he had Parkinson’s.

He told me: “I got the fast kind. Every day it gets a little worse.”

Smith was one of many Dish Network customers following the Cardinals in a pennant race. At the time, the Cards were up two games on the Cubs with 12 left.

Seven of those final games were against the Cubbies.

Then the blackout.

Million-dollar companies — Dish Network and what was then Fox Sports Midwest — could not agree on a new contract, so Smith and thousands of others lost Cards baseball at a time when it most hurt.

For some, blackouts are more than annoying

For me, blackouts are annoying.

But imagine people like Smith. Each day a progressive disease eats away at the fullness of life and then, through no fault of your own, baseball, the game you watched as a child with your father, disappears from TV.

In that 2019 story, I mentioned that Regular Joes have tried to sue over this issue. They have lost.

In part, it’s because we sign contracts with Dish and DirecTV that state they can change prices packages and programming at any time.

Tired of losing Super Bowls, the Oscars and the Olympics

I’m unsure if the bipartisan Modern Television Act is on what you’d call a fast track in Washington, D.C. At least it’s alive.

On May 5, 2021, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. The chairman is Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio.

The March 2021 press release issued by Scalise and Eshoo included words of support from various groups and people across the political divide.

Gigi Sohn had this to say. She is a former counselor to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

“The Modern Television Act … will ensure that Americans will no longer have to worry about losing access to marquee TV events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Olympics because of retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and subscription TV providers.

“Representatives Scalise and Eshoo should be commended for modernizing an outdated regulatory regime that does little more than protect big media companies while leaving TV viewers out in the cold.”

It seems to me, something needs to be done. We’ve been out in the cold too long.

This is Pokin Around column No. 94.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin