Local Choice fight ramps up as CBS refuses to run ATVA ads

CBS Radio will not run the American Television Alliance's new spot plugging the Senate Commerce Committee's "Local Choice" proposal.

The refusal to air the low-budget campaign is not a shocker, given that--should it become law--Local Choice would dispense with broadcast retransmission fees and employ a system of pay-TV compensation that would likely be far less profitable to broadcasters.

"CBS's actions are certainly unethical and deserve the attention of Congress," ATVA spokesman Brian Frederick said. "It's definitely not in the public interest to cut off voices because CBS disagrees with them. Broadcasters are stifling debate the same way they stifle innovation."

Local Choice is the brainchild of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.), and it just got backing from a wider body of Senate Republicans, who want to see the proposal come to the Senate floor this fall as part of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Reauthorization Act.

Should it gain more traction, it could become a game-changer.

The proposal essentially breaks down this way: Pay-TV operators would make every local broadcast channel available to subscribers, who would then choose which stations they'd like to receive. Payments would be made directly from consumers to broadcasters, and retrans would go away.

On Thursday, broadcast associations from all  50 U.S. states banded together and asked the Commerce Committee not to hook Local Choice to STELA.

"If adopted," they wrote, "the proposal will unjustifiably eliminate television broadcasting's longstanding statutory right of retransmission consent and unfairly single out the free, over-the-air, local television broadcast industry for mandatory 'a la carte' treatment."

For more:
- read this ATVA announcement
- read this Broadcasting & Cable story

Related links:
ATVA launches Local Choice ad campaign
Senate Republicans plug 'Local Choice' alternative to retransmission consent
House passes STELA, boosts pay TV retrans leverage, ends CableCARD requirement