Is congress prepared to deregulate television? Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) apparently think so based on the cable- and satellite-friendly bill they submitted today called the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act. It would end retransmission consent — the rules that require pay TV providers to negotiate deals with local broadcasters to carry their programming. It doesn’t stop there: The proposal also would end restrictions that enable syndicators to sell shows exclusively into different markets. And it would scrap rules that bar cable companies from importing network programming from out-of-market stations when they can’t strike deals with local broadcasters. DeMint used the trendy magic words — “job creation” — to support the bill. To promote innovation, he says, “we need to stop issuing new regulations and instead remove and modernize rules written to address the last century’s business and regulatory models.” DirecTV agrees, saying that the proposal would “eliminate byzantine regulations that shackle innovation, competition and consumer choice.”
But when it comes to wielding political clout, the bill’s supporters probably are no match for the National Association of Broadcasters which says it “respectfully” opposes the legislation. “Current law ensures access to quality local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings. The proposed changes to the Communications Act strike at the core of free market negotiations and broadcast localism, thereby threatening a community-based information and entertainment medium that serves tens of millions of Americans each day.”
And from Broadcasting & Cable:
Good luck with that.
Given the howls protest that can come from just a proposed change in wording in any one of the current regulations, the legislation is unlikely to get very far. But DeMint and Scalise get to burnish their brands as deregulatory crusaders.
So the lobbyists are divided based on their economic interests (big surprise).
The American Television Alliance, which has been pushing for major retrans reform, called it a constructive step foward.
"[ATVA] commends Rep. Steve Scalise and Senator Jim DeMint for introducing companion bills to reform the rules and regulations that govern the television marketplace. The past few decades have brought tremendous changes to how consumers view broadcast programming, how it is marketed and how it is delivered, yet the rules governing the industry have stayed the same for nearly twenty years. This legislation represents a constructive step forward and ATVA looks forward to working with the sponsors of the legislation and other Members of Congress to make the necessary changes to modernize these rules and protect consumers."
ATVA members include AT&T, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, DISH, and DirecTV.
The public would benefit from a fair discussion of the proposal. But this is the United States where the public rarely know what's going on with anything that really affects them.