Local Choice now part of Senate's satellite reauthorization bill

The Senate version of satellite reauthorization will indeed include Local Choice, a controversial Commerce Committee proposal that essentially strips broadcast channels out of the pay-TV bundle.

A draft of the Senate committee's version of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), complete with Local Choice language, was circulated Friday in advance of a meeting with broadcast lobbyists--who were undoubtedly unpleased to see Local Choice included.

The National Association of Broadcasters-backed group TVFreedom.org immediately responded with the following statement: "Given the Local Choice proposal's negative impact on competition--as well as America's television viewers and local TV stations--little justification exists for Congressional haste to pass such legislation by year's end.  Any Congressional bill that includes the components of the Local Choice proposal will ultimately cost pay-TV consumers more for less programming under an unproven and often criticized à la carte model, drive local TV stations off the air and completely fail to address true market failures that harm American consumers as a result of the deceptive billing practices of cable and satellite TV providers. In this instance, STAVRA as being presented publicly, is nothing more than a pay-TV giveaway."

Not surprisingly, the pay-TV industry has a very different view of Local Choice, which would give pay-TV subscribers the ability to choose which local broadcast stations they want to pay for while rending payments directly from viewers to broadcasters.

"ACA greatly appreciates the fact that Sens. Rockefeller and Thune, working in a bipartisan fashion, have decided that the status quo characterized by too many TV signal blackouts and escalating consumer costs for local TV signals needs to be changed," said Matt Polka, president of the American Cable Association, in a statement. "We support the Senate lawmakers' conclusion that the time has come for Congress to enact Local Choice to ensure that pay-TV distribution of free local TV signals occurs in a manner that serves the public interest not just some of the time but all of the time."

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
DirecTV and Raycom settle retrans fight, exchange nasty words
Mediacom's Larsen on programming costs, Local Choice and TV Everywhere challenges
Local Choice fight ramps up as CBS refuses to run ATVA ads