Retransmission Consent refers to a broadcaster's right to require consent (and compensation)from cable providers for distributing their signal to cable subscribers. Part of the 1992 Cable Act, it requires cable systems to pay a subscriber fee to local broadcast stations (affiliates and independents) that appear on the cable system. Since cable providers are currently required to carry local broadcast signals, Retransmission Consent is often viewed as a derivative of must carry regulations that force carriers to carry certain broadcast signals as mandated by current legislation. The goal of the 1992 Act and Retransmission Consent was to ensure local news and weather information was not left out of cable packages available to subscribers.
Critics of Retransmission Consent believe it has resulted in large broadcaster's creating multiple channel derivates (e.g. ESPN, ESPN II, ESPN Classic, ESPN News, etc.) in order to multiply their revenue streams. Through Retransmission Consent, these large broadcasters force cable providers to carry each derivative channel, leaving consumers with "bloated" cable bills and lineups stocked with channels that may not be viable based on viewership alone.