NAB, NRB against Next Generation Television Marketplace Act
The Video CHOICE Act and Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, which seek to re-write/modernize much of the 1934 Communications Act and bring an end to channels going dark over retransmission contract disputes between broadcasters and MVPD providers, has gotten some pushback from the NAB and National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).
Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren (both D-CA), introduced the Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) Act: “My bill would put an end to broadcast television blackouts and ensure consumers aren’t held hostage by a dispute they have no control over,” The LA Times quoted Eshoo, a ranking member of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
Lofgren, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, added: “…this bill offers the basic consumer protections and choices they should receive in television and online services.”
The bill looks to give the FCC authority to keep a local broadcast channel on-air during a contract dispute. Also in the bill is a provision that would prohibit a broadcaster from tying carriage of its OTA stations with distribution of its cable networks. Disney and 21st Century Fox, for example, often package their stations with their cable net in deals with distributors.
The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act aims to overhaul retransmission consent rules and the “compulsory copyright that was established in 1976 and allows cable and satellite operators to distribute broadcast television programs in return for paying a one-size-fits-all copyright fee,” said the LA Times.
“Over the last several decades, communications and entertainment technology has become more advanced, while the laws governing the industry have remained relatively unchanged,” The LA Times quoted Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as saying. “The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, and the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act ensures that by removing the heavy hand of government, the market is free to operate in a way that continues to benefit consumers and encourage innovation.”
Several MVPDs, including DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, have offered their support of the Eshoo and Lofgren bill. There likely will be similar praise for Scalise’s bill, noted The LA Times as well.
Broadcasters, via the NAB and NRB, came out against both efforts. Said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith: “Clearly, these two pieces of legislation are utterly inconsistent with each other, and we find it sad that pay TV companies who built their broadband, voice and video businesses on the backs of local TV signals now balk at the notion of paying a fair market rate for the most-watched programming on television. NAB and America’s local broadcasters respectfully oppose both of these bills. We will constructively engage with policymakers seeking to improve upon a retransmission consent law that is now working over 99 percent of the time.”
NRB said it opposes The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act’s provision eliminating must-carry status for broadcast stations and warns it would have a detrimental impact on Christian TV stations and their viewers.
Said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB: “Scuttling the local channel carriage responsibilities of cable and other pay-TV platforms would be a significant detriment to a number of Christian TV stations and the viewers who rely on them for spiritual guidance. These longstanding carriage rules ensure that viewers can access the important and edifying programming their local Christian broadcasters offer free-of-charge.”
Must Carry laws were enacted by Congress in 1992 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997. Congress then found that cable systems have an “economic incentive” to “delete, reposition, or not carry local broadcast signals” and that, without “Must-Carry” rules, the “viability” of broadcasters “will be seriously jeopardized.”