Local Choice pulled from Senate bill

Fearing that their Local Choice proposal is too ambitious for full Congressional approval on a short timeline, the proposal's creators, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), have pulled it out of the Senate Commerce Committee's satellite-TV bill.

The provision, which was in the draft of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), would have probably been too big and controversial to pass through quickly. That timing would have been an issue, given that STAVRA needs approval by the end of the year.

Had it passed, Local Choice would have done away with broadcast-retransmission payments from pay-TV operators, essentially stripping broadcast stations from the pay-TV bundle. Subscribers would choose only the local stations they want and pay broadcasters directly.

Understandably, broadcasters are pleased, with the NAB-backed TVFreedom.org releasing the following statement on Wednesday: "We are encouraged by the Senate Commerce Committee's decision to eliminate the 'Local Choice' components from its draft STAVRA legislation. In the interest of the millions of low-income households, seniors and underserved populations that rely on paid television services for their local news and programming, severe weather updates and emergency information, we will continue to fight to preserve the lifeline basic service tier provision in any legislation that moves forward this year."

The American Cable Association—a strident Local Choice supporter—praised Rockefeller and Thune for getting a conversation started about ending retrans.

"ACA agrees that pay-TV customers deserve to be free of broadcaster-initiated blackouts and to decide on their own whether they want to pay for 'free TV' channels made available by their multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD)," the group's statement reads.

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
Mediacom's Larsen on programming costs, Local Choice and TV Everywhere challenges
Local Choice fight ramps up as CBS refuses to run ATVA ads
Senate Republicans plug 'Local Choice' alternative to retransmission consent